Deputy Prime Minister issues Chinese girl, Lin Yuan, Samoan passport
Today’s editorial is the final one in a five-part series
Poor Le Mamea Ropati. He was such a loyal friend in those days he never talked; or did anything he did not think was the right thing to do anyway.
All he did was listened and obeyed.
So that as far as everyone knew he kept quiet about everything that was going on around him; all he did was mind his own business especially when the “Big Boys” talked about selling Samoan passports and citizenships, to foreigners especially Chinese.
He shouldn’t have bothered though.
Because across the front page of the Samoa Observer on 27 June 1997, was the headline that read: “Deputy PM admits authorizing citizenship.”
The story underneath the headline said: “Deputy Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi yesterday admitted signing the authority to issue the Western Samoan passport to the Chinese girl, Lin Yuan, on 8 July 1996.”
That was about a year ago.
Tuilaepa said he did this in his capacity as Acting PM when PM Tofilau was taken ill. Tuilaepa also confirmed that “with her Western Samoa passport, Li Yuan, who was adopted by a Samoan family, was given a scholarship to study at Otago University, New Zealand.”
And then a copy of a letter from the Acting Financial Secretary, Pisaina Leilua-Lei Sam, addressed to Deputy PM, Tuilaepa, surfaced.
It was in late July 1997. The letter made some interesting disclosures.
It said an amount of $300,000 in “unapproved funds”, had been used by the Prime Minister’s Department in November 1995, to purchase 20,000 passports.
Of that amount of passports, 590 were later found to be “unaccounted for.”
Sometime later, those “590” missing passports were discussed in a letter from the Secretary to Cabinet, Simon Potoi, addressed to Prime Minister Tofilau.
Leilua-Lei Sam said the department could not explain how those passports had gone missing; neither could it provide proper accounting on passports sent to “Auckland, Wellington, Rarotonga, Paris, Fiji, Australia, Solomon Islands, Hong Kong, as well as those sold in Samoa.”
Wrote Leilua-Lei Sam to Cabinet: “A total of $131,000 had been ear-marked in the budget to buy passports, but the department ended up using it for other purposes.
“When an order of 6,500 passports arrived in 1995, the department used $150,000 of its own funds to pay for them.
“This was why the department was able to reduce its spending on passports to $105,000, on the understanding that there were a lot of passports in stock.”
However, an investigation later found that “there were not enough passports available,” so that “Treasury recommended to buy only 6,000 passports using $105,000 provided in the budget.”
After these transactions had been made public, similar reports turned up.
They were from “inside sources” this time.
One of them said Samoan names such as “Tavita,” “Lanuola,” “Pele” and “Peka”, had been used in passports sold to Chinese nationals; it was an attempt to make them look legitimate.
So that the passport holders would now become “Tavita Fei Wang, Lanuola Duo-Li Gao, Pele Nga Chui, Peka Duo-Li Gao.”
Another report said everyone in the PM’s Department knew passports were being sold to foreigners.
They had been warned though “not to let anyone know, especially newspapers.”
On 29 July 1997, a story based on these reports, was published in the Sunday Samoan.
It appeared under the front page headline: “PM knows about passport sale.”
These days Tofilau appears tired; perhaps he’s sick of passports; perhaps he’s also sick of politics. Everywhere he goes people are gossiping about him and passports.
They are even calling him “Tusifolau” (Samoan word for passport) which is the lowest form of disrespect.
Now aware that he has lost the public’s respect, he is also now distancing himself from his church. Brought up in the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) where his father was a respected parish minister, Tofilau was well respected too. At one point he held the church’s top post of General Assembly Chairman.
All his adult life Tofilau has been a strong supporter of his church.
Not any more. He is now a “born again Christian.” Today, having turned his back on conventional Christianity, he is openly embracing Charismatic Christianity.
Often on TV he is seen worshipping the charismatic way; he is singing and dancing with other worshippers as they’re waving their arms in the air.
And yet Tofilau is still officially with his old church; still it seems pretty clear where his heart is today; it is with charismatic Christianity where he’s seen dancing with the rest as they’re singing and worshipping on national television.
So that looking from afar, the leaders of the Congregational Christian Church are shocked seeing the Chairman of their General Assembly, worshipping the charismatic way, so that they begin to seriously consider dropping him.
But then by that time Tofilau knows exactly what he wants; he’s already made up his mind that he is through with the church.
In fact, he has even hinted that he is about to be dropped from his beloved Congregational Christian Church.
“They are thinking of getting rid of me because I’ve been lifting my hands in the air when I pray,” he is heard saying.
And yet that does not bother him any more.
One day in Parliament, he takes the floor and declares: “Samoa, I do not pray to Satan. I pray to God to bless this country so that Satan does not win.”
As he’s speaking his voice is stuttering.
Now Tofilau is telling Parliament while the whole country is listening in on the radio: “So if I am dropped from the church for telling the truth, so be it. All I’m concerned about is my relationship with God.”
He takes a pause.
And then he continues: “Samoa, I do not pray to Satan. I am chosen by God to be Samoa’s leader. God would not have chosen me if I was evil-hearted.”
However, he admits: “I am a bad person. I am a sinful person. I am a wicked person. So I am prepared to step down.”
And now, as he’s reminding Parliament that “I’d wanted to quit for a long time,” he’s saying:
“On 30 November 1981 when I spoke in this Parliament, I said, Mr Speaker, I am tendering my final resignation to Parliament.
“I do not know if this will be my last word. With respect, if I had followed my heart, I would have left a long time ago.”
But since he had not listened to his heart he is now a sad man, a very sad man.
He is trapped in a lousy dilemma from which he is finding it incredibly difficult to extricate himself.
And so he implores: “Samoa, if these are my last words to you, they would be enough.
We leave it to God.”