P.M. Ardern, rugby, Treaty of Friendship and those visas

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 05 March 2018, 12:00AM

The truth is quite simple. The Samoan Government doesn’t need to look far to find a role model. If Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his administration need some inspiration, they only have to look to New Zealand. It’s to the south of us, three hours away by plane and with the Tui Samoa Cable up and running, communications have never been easier.

Not only is New Zealand the “least corrupt country in the world” according to Transparency International, they are undisputed leaders in many fields. 

Take gender equality and empowering women for instance.

Now look at Jacinda Ardern, the woman who is their Prime Minister, who has been turning heads everywhere in the world and in Samoa since Sunday evening when she arrived. 

What a wonderful role model not just for women in general, but for all young women who have big dreams of becoming leaders. Her story and her mercurial rise to the top is the stuff of dreams, it is the kind of ‘can do’ attitude that can move mountains. 

Could it happen in Samoa? Of course! Come to think of it, we are not too far off. With Fiame Naomi Mata’afa as Deputy Prime Minister, our journey in as far as gender equality goes is only a step away from having a woman as our Prime Minister. 

In the meantime, New Zealand is a beacon of hope, a breath of fresh air. Not only have they had more women than most countries hold the highest ranked position in Government, the age and the perception about what a typical Prime Minister should look like keep evolving so that they keep setting the standards.

The message, we can see looking in from the outside, is that of inclusiveness. It is that it doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is and where you come from, if you have what it takes, you have a chance. Ms. Ardern is a shining example.

And we can see this too with many of our Samoan and Pacific brothers and sisters holding senior positions within the New Zealand government and the private sector. 

Of course we would like to see more but then we need to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, was it? Now imagine one day having someone like Carmel Sepuloni, Jenny Salesa or even our very own Aupito Su’a William Sio as New Zealand’s Prime Minister? Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

But there is more to New Zealand than politics. They are the world champions in rugby. Yes they might be a small country compared to some of the bigger rugby nations in the world but there is no doubt they are the best. 

The All Blacks team, featuring many Samoans, has won the Rugby World three times and they could probably keep it for three more tournaments looking at the way they are playing. It’s not just the men; their women’s team too, captained by a Samoan, are also the reigning world champions. Fascinating stuff, isn’t it.

 Samoan rugby can definitely do with some help at the moment. 

While we’ve managed to snare the legendary Sir Gordon Tietjens for the Sevens programme, we’re sure there is a lot more New Zealand can do to help.

Maybe they can teach Samoa a thing or two about transparency, accountability and good governance since that appears to be the solid base upon which their success is based. 

From what we can see, the way the New Zealand Rugby Union is run is an open book which leaves very little room for a lot of that funny stuff that happens on the side that we see a lot in Samoa. And maybe they can also help us with how not to run a bankrupt Union and rely on poor taxpayers to prop it up every time their fingers are burnt. What do you reckon?

There is so much more we can learn from New Zealand. 

Keep in mind that Samoa and New Zealand share a very special bond. It is one cemented by the Treaty of Friendship, founded on mutual respect, history and the spirit of cooperation. Over the years, this Treaty has resulted in many fruitful partnerships in different areas including tourism, education and scholarships, health, customs, police and corrections, renewable energy, private sector development, agriculture, disaster preparedness, sports and many more.

There is no doubt that Ms. Ardern’s visit to Samoa will continue to strengthen those links. With the offer of close to T$20million worth of various assistance programmes, Samoa would welcome the helping hand from one of our oldest and closest allies on many different fronts.

But if we could add one last request for Prime Minister Ardern, it would be this:  Can you be the Prime Minister who would be bold enough to change your immigration laws so that Samoans can enter your country freely without requiring visas, which cost money most of our poor people don’t have?

We cannot keep referring to a special relationship founded upon the Treaty of Friendship and then continue to treat our Samoans like second-class citizens by subjecting them to the vigorous and expensive process of having to obtain a visa simply to fly across for the weekend.

That’s what we think anyway. What about you? Write and share your thoughts with us. Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 05 March 2018, 12:00AM

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