‘A calm will most certainly follow a storm’
“E sosoo le loulouā ma le maninoa”
By God’s grace and love we are blessed with the opportunity to gather today in good health to witness the start of a new parliamentary term.
Samoa pays tribute to each member of this new 16th parliament, to your hard work and dedication, to your perseverance and diligence, and to leading a successful campaign. Any national election campaign demands a lot of commitment and sacrifice. We acknowledge the support and dedication of your constituencies; your families, villages, friends, churches and colleagues – both in Samoa and overseas.
Leadership is a duty and a privilege. It comes with great responsibility. It is often said that the test of a great leader is not how you perform in times of largesse, but how you perform in times of hardship, conflict and chaos. We hope that you will not experience any major conflicts and chaos, but no doubt there will be challenges.
On the 26th of May last year, the Honourable Prime Minister announced the budget for 2015/2016.
He titled his budget message “Living within our means”. He advised that this year will be a year for restraint and prudence, and offered an accounting of the government’s achievements for the five years prior. He then laid out a plan for spending and for sector and sub-sector prioritisation. It is the primary task of this 16th parliament to assess, negotiate and implement, in the best interests of our country, the strengths of that and future annual national budgets, and their associated implementation plans.
The work of your parliament over the next five years will be greatly assisted by all arms of the state. From our judiciary to our police force through to each of the other state services, all of which are in place to ensure the smooth and peaceful running of state affairs. I wish to make particular mention here of the recent work of the electoral office. They played a significant role in ensuring that all who were eligible to vote were well informed of how, why and where to vote. Ensuring the legitimacy of elections is important to the credibility of your parliament, and to the continued and long term stability of our nation and its commitment to the rule of law.
Our electoral office, along with our police force and many volunteers, ensured that on the day of elections we experienced no outbreaks of violence. Samoa can be proud of her legacy as a peaceful nation state.
Your parliament is unique compared to earlier parliaments. You not only have more women parliamentarians but also more new (compared with returning) parliamentarians. In fact, new parliamentarians outnumber returning parliamentarians by a significant margin. This may offer fresh and innovative perspectives on both old and new issues.
Our churches and their leaders will also continue to provide you with support and guidance. So too will our business communities, the media, national charities, civil societies and international government and non-government partners.
The burdens of leadership need not be borne by you alone. Parliament of course is ultimately accountable for the laws it makes on behalf of the nation. But as individual parliamentarians you need not and ought not to bear the burden alone. It can be shared with your peers within your parties, across the House, in select committees, special inquiry commissions, and so on and so forth. True sharing, however, means not the shirking of responsibility through menial delegation or the subjugation of minorities but through a proactive empowering of co-operative leadership. This includes building a governing culture that can ensure an openness to debate, to having informed and constructive dialogue (public and closed), to having quality evaluation data and public access to that data (including transparent and regular data collection, evaluation and reporting processes), and to fully engaging across all sectors a professionalism that includes an ethics of care. These are the imperatives of a just democracy and of the rule of law.
Our Constitution embraces the values of democratic government and gives pride of place to both our indigenous and Christian values. You, as the 16th parliament of Samoa, have a responsibility to do all you can to protect the best in our traditional values and in our Constitution.
Whilst change is a given for any society, it is also something that can be manipulated for more negative than positive ends. We must always be mindful of this. We must ensure that we do all that is prudently possible to prevent any unlawful manipulation or coercion, active or by omission.
The phenomenon of climate change is a real part of our lives today. It is encouraging to note the budgetary commitment made by the last government to addressing the challenges of climate change. This shows prudence and acknowledges the seriousness of the issue.
Let me end by quoting Proverbs 8 verse 12. Here the Bible says “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion”. If we are to face tight times over the next five years as predicted, you as parliament will need to search for this wisdom and prudence. A wisdom implicit in our own Samoan saying: E sosoo le loulouā ma le maninoa. A calm will most certainly follow a storm.
I wish you well in your leadership journey over the next five years. As you voyage forward, may you be blessed in your search for God’s wisdom, prudence, knowledge and discretion. You will not journey alone. You have the tapuaiga, the prayerful support, of the nation – of those who came before, those who are here now, and those who are yet to come.
I hereby declare this 16th parliament of Samoa officially open.