‘My job is to keep you safe’

Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, has declined to enter into a war of words with his critics over the controversy created by his comments about the matai system and the military. 

 “With all due respect I really don’t want to (comment),” he told the Samoa Observer yesterday.

 “I don’t need to get my energy spent on other stuff. My job is to keep you safe and me safe. I also have other important stuff to do.”

Fuiava’s response follows further scrutiny of his comments from experts in the Samoan culture yesterday. 

They described Fuiava’s comparison of the matai system to the military as “stupid” and “insulting.”

The Tu'ua o Vailoa Palauli, Mata’afa Autagavaia Elia, condemned the Commissioner, accusing him of not knowing much about the matai system since “he just became a matai yesterday.”

 “Respectfully, he shouldn’t be talking about things he doesn’t know much about,” Mata’afa said. 

“The comparison is insulting to all Samoans.”

The Tu’ua said Fuiava should become involved with village life where the matai system is practiced so he could get an appreciation of the fa’asamoa.

 “I don’t think the Police Commissioner has ever sat in a village council meeting,” he said. “He needs to experience that before he can say these things.”

For Papali’i Peone Fuimaono, Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Culture Division at the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, she said the comments are unfortunate.

 “In whatever way the comments were made or intended, they conjure up parts of our painful history we would rather not remember,” said Papali’i. 

The fa’amatai, she said, is the absolute essence of who we are as people. 

“I will not counter the statement nor guess the justifications therein, but rather support the understanding that Samoa’s Police operate under the mantra of 'A Safer Samoa'.” 

The comment in question was made by Fuiava in response to a “ghost letter” making a number of allegations that question the administration of the Ministry of Police.

The letter makes a number of allegations against the administration of the Police service. 

Among them is the allegation that Commissioner Fuiava is running the Police Force “like a military base.”

In response, Commissioner Fuiava said the Police Force is in fact, a “quasi-military organisation”. 

 “That’s really interesting because if you look at the matai system, it’s run like a military,” he said.  “There is a head matai that makes decisions and once that decision is made, every one aligns with that.” 

The comments from Mata’afa and Papali’i follow the call by the Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Lei’ataua for the Commissioner to apologise.

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