Common law, palagi and Samoa’s laws

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your editorial titled “Ridiculous reaction reflects badly on leadership of today.” I’m glad that the P.M. often resorts to the Bible as a source of inspiration. That is commendable, although caution should be taken not to interpret it out of context or to use it to rationalize and justify certain behaviors or actions. 

I think he, and others, need to know that some (if not most) parts of the so-called “palagi laws” (re: Common Law) have their origins in the Bible too. So that’s a contradiction and irony in what the P.M. has claimed. The implication in the denunciation of “palagi laws” is that there are also “Samoa/n laws” which are far better and superior. Is it the Faa-Samoa? The last time I checked, the Constitution (consisting of mostly “palagi laws”) is still the supreme law of the land.

It also leads me to wonder what kinds of “laws” we had as Samoans prior to Christianity. It was the time that we often refer to as “aso o le pogisa” (our own “dark ages”?), “ma tu faapaupau” (barbarism?) I’m sure we lived under natural and universal laws and the law of the jungle. The Faa-Samoa has certainly evolved and changed through the years and today, I’m sure, some of its elements and roots can also be traced to Christianity - hence to the palagis (“sky busters”).

Moreover, “spare the rod and spoil the child”, verbatim, is not found in the Bible. The concept may be in the several verses in Proverbs, but I believe it’s mostly taken out of context. As a result the verses are interpreted literally to mean that parents can and should hit/beat/spank their children as a form of discipline. 

One of the verses is: “He that spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastens him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24). The more complete text certainly adds some context and opens up the expression to a less cruel interpretation and meaning. I like this quote by one church leader:

 “.... I have never accepted the principle of “spare the rod and spoil the child.” I will be forever grateful for a father who never laid a hand in anger upon his children. Somehow he had the wonderful talent to let them know what was expected of them and to give them encouragement in achieving it. I am persuaded that violent fathers produce violent sons. I am satisfied that such punishment in most instances does more damage than good. Children don’t need beating. They need love and encouragement. They need fathers to whom they can look with respect rather than fear. Above all, they need example. I recently read a biography of George H. Brimhall, who at one time served as president of Brigham Young University. Concerning him, someone said that he reared “his boys with a rod, but it [was] a fishing rod”. (Gordon B. Hinckley)

I think the crux of the P.M’s spiel and the “palagi laws” reference has to do with “rights” (individual rights) as you assert Mataafa. An article in the Savali (October 1, 2012) titled: “Police Commissioner: Western Rights Undermining Faa-Samoa,” has the essence of what the PM is trying to say. Here are some excerpts:

 “The western [palagi] concept of individual rights is creating disorder in the villages. It is encouraging youths to rebel against the matai and the village councils.”

 “... we are trying to introduce and promote [individual rights] that [are] completely foreign, completely the opposite to FaaSamoa. And it is destroying the peace, the harmony and the orderliness of our villages.”

Although these opinions were voiced by the former and late Police Commissioner, they actually reflect what most in government and the country believe and agree. The P.M. seems to espouse them too, much to the chagrin of his own party’s namesake, platform and agenda for human rights.

Though Christianity may be collective in its responsibilities, it is actually individual in its accountability and finality. Free will (agency/choice) is something that is divine. It is Biblical. Individual rights - despite their “palaginess” - are therefore more biblical than the disciplining of children with the rod. 

Finally, individual rights are not supposed to be unfettered, unbridled or unchecked, they still need to be defined and regulated within the virtues and moral limits of a society. And therein lies the difference between natural liberty and moral liberty - the latter of course being nobler, more virtuous and honorable.

Ma le Faaaloalo lava.


LV Letalu

Lalomanu and Utah

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