Parliament’s “sacred responsibility”

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 10 February 2017, 12:00AM

When the going gets tough, we look for inspiration. We look to our leaders as role models for guidance, wisdom and to articulate vision and value. 

In Samoa today, we are going through a very interesting time. 

A number of challenges have been highlighted on the pages of this newspaper requiring bold leadership and a commitment to make a difference to ensure the future of this nation remains in good hands. 

It goes without saying that the decisions being made today will have major ramifications on what happens tomorrow. This calls for prudent decision-making and decisive leadership.

Which brings us to a reminder the Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, issued last year to Parliament about their “sacred responsibility” as leaders of this country. We believe it’s important that we revisit what the Head of State said then. We say this because judging from Parliament’s behaviour lately - we believe they have forgotten the wise words of our Head of State. 

 “As leaders we have a sacred duty to be vigilant about our democratic processes, about universal principles of due process and transparency and about the rule of law,” his Highness Tui Atua said.

“We have a sacred responsibility to ensure that we are accountable not only to ourselves and to our nation, but also to God.”

In His Highness Tui Atua’s wisdom though, we find reason. We find logic.

Said the Head of State: “I want to leave you with the words of a native American Indian priest, Father Paul Ojibway, who in reflecting on the lessons learnt by his Indigenous people, said that: “...when all manner of things are described, the lasting task the Indigenous of the New World teach[es] us to care about is the most obvious and probably the most difficult in becoming human beings – [that is] how to forgive one another”.

“But forgiveness, as Biblical scholar Andrew Pinsent points out, is “certainly not the same as excusing, tolerating or otherwise endorsing what is wrong”.

“Forgiveness is both a process and a state of heart. It involves reciprocity and goes hand in hand with accountability and remorse. 

“In the world of leadership doing what is right is sadly often more difficult than doing what is wrong. And, for far too many it seems easier to just stay silent. The words of Martin Luther King may serve as lodestar in moments of hesitation. He says: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

It was then that the Head of State spoke about the sacred responsibility of leaders. One of those responsibilities is advocating for human rights and the humane treatment of all. 

On this subject, His Highness went on to say that it is the right of every human person, no matter what their status or position in society, “to have all that they need to have to enable him or her to live a healthy, dignified, safe, and empowering life.”

Again we say amen to that. This should apply to the richest as well as the poorest people in this country. This should apply to the person who holds the highest paid job to the kids running around on the streets of Apia selling pins and begging for a living.

Come to think of it, why do people beg? Why are those children on the streets? Are they there by choice? Or are they and their families that desperate? What would our forefathers say about this? Did they envision that Samoa would one day be like this? 

Which brings us to our Constitution. The reality is that our forefathers who shed their blood and fought for our independence would probably not even recognise what has become of our Constitution today. It has been amended so many times its sacredness has become very light. This is probably what the Head of State was thinking when he also reminded about the importance of the Constitution.

“Our Constitution, the supreme law of our land, prohibits inhumane practices,” His Highness said. “It prohibits the abuse of power and corruption in any shape or form; it counsels against violence and demands accountability and transparency.

“Our Constitution holds the wisdom and dreams of both our forebears and our children to come. We must always tread carefully, not with fear but with love, whenever we revisit the Constitution, lest we tread carelessly on those dreams.”

Lastly, His Highness Tui Atua paid tribute to private citizens and active coalition groups – those within government or across governments, the opposition, donor groups, the diplomatic corp., the public service, churches, villages, civil society, and private businesses –who have made a public stance, whether large or small, against personal and/or institutional violence, corruption and/or abuse over the last five years.

“As prudent and loving leaders we must be constantly open to evaluating and re-evaluating the wisdom, relevance and justice of our Constitutional provisions before we exercise our power to amend them,” he said. 

“Constitutional amendments ought only to be done where it is determined, after rigorous debate and scrutiny in the House and the appropriate support of the people, to be the right and just thing to do.”

Believe it or not, from our standpoint today, we believe our leaders are finding it very difficult to do the right thing – in certain cases. 

It involves dealing with people who have wronged this country not just by a few hundreds of tala but by the millions. 

The thing is when power is abused by people we entrusted to serve us, its hard to ignore the idea that some of that abuse – if not all of it – is motivated by greed and the lure of personal gain.

What do you think?

Have a fabulous Friday Samoa, God bless! 

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 10 February 2017, 12:00AM

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