Foreign beliefs and religions don’t enslave us. We are our own worst enemies

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 05 February 2017, 12:00AM

The undeniable truth is this. Respect for the rule of law, justice and freedom of choice and association are paramount principles to adhere to if people of any country want to co-exist peacefully. 

During the past few days, these issues have been the focus of much public debate, especially in light of the government’s push to declare Samoa as a Christian state.

If we were to take the official line being toed by the government as gospel truth, as a Christian, you’d have to say there is invigorating hope. 

We say this because from a Christian perspective, Samoa is treading waters other nations fear. Whether it’s necessary though, that’s another question.

You see, Samoa’s independence is turning 55 years old this year. And since this country became politically independent, our people have been enjoying peace and freedom protected by justice, freedom and the respect for the rule of law.

The threat of another religion overtaking Christianity in Samoa has never been an issue. The only thing threatening when it comes to religion is our people enslaving themselves through selfish ambitions and poor decision-making. 

If there is a threat that needs to be addressed, it is that. We say this because while the government is coming up with one law change after another, these are the real issues staring us in the face that must be dealt with immediately if we want our people to continue to enjoy their freedom.

A few years ago for instance, the Supreme Court through Justice Pierre Slicer delivered a ruling on the outcome of a legal claim by a family at Tanugamanono who were “bullied” out of their home by the Village Council.

For the uninitiated, Afu Faumuina Tutuila’s family was evicted from their home as a result of a bitter dispute involving the Tanugamanono Village Council and their neighbour, the E.F.K.S Church. The details of the row are well known. 

But some parts are worth revisiting. 

 “This has been a very long drawn out process,” Afu said then. “We’ve suffered so much, we’ve been humiliated by our village and we’ve been made to look like we are bad people.”

“Yet this was a case about a family being bullied by people who think they are above the law. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for our family. We’ve cried so many times from the hurt, we’ve been hurting for a very long time.”

The question we asked then and we continue to ask now is how was this allowed to happen? How did this country reach the point where Samoans are allowed to boot other Samoans from their home and land? 

Isn’t every Samoan afforded the privilege of belonging to this great land we call Samoa under the Constitution? Imagine then having to suffer in silence the indignity of becoming displaced nomads in your own country? 

The fact is Afu and her family were not the first Samoans to be forced into a life of exile in this free country. Trust me, I know the feeling. It has got to be the most enfeebling experience a Samoan must have to endure. 

Over the years, similar punishments have been meted out in the name of village law and order. 

Some years ago, a man was shot dead in Upolu. Elsewhere, an elderly father was hog-tied and placed near the road for defying the village in the way he worshipped his God.  His house and properties were set alight.

Freedom? Justice? Rule of law? 

Absolutely not.

And yet this is what we should be more concerned about. 

Foreign beliefs religions don’t threaten our people as bad as our people enslaving ourselves.

Part of the problem we believe is the Village Fono Act. This is a law that arms Village Councils with unquestionable power over their subjects.  They are so taken by the power this law gives them they don’t really care who they hurt. 

We’ve said before that in some cases, this drug called the Village Fono Act has led some matai councils to question the government’s authority. The Police would know. They have been at the receiving end of threats from different villages at one time or another.

We’ve seen this time and time again. It’s not just at Tanugamanono. It’s happening all over the country. 

Every week there is a man being booted from his village, there are families being forcefully removed without question. 

Somewhere out there, there are greedy matai who are using this law to serve their petty and dirty agenda. 

How long will this country allow this to continue?

As your newspaper has said time and time again, perhaps what this country needs is a law requiring all matai to think of the Constitution as their second Bible.  In other words, matai need to read the Constitution and understand what it says so that they treat their fellow villagers with respect and humanity.

Which follows that it’s time for the government to reconsider punishments such as ostracism, torching of all properties, destruction of assets among others with a view to getting rid of it. This will benefit our people far better than making Samoa Christian state.

These penalties are both outrageous and barbaric. They are inconsistent with the so-called Christian principles and values we have come to embrace. We cannot have both. What do you think?

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 05 February 2017, 12:00AM

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