Taitosaua’s resignation, Leausa’s behaviour and Tuilaepa’s response

It’s been an interesting week in Samoa. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, a lot has happened. Some developments should be applauded others deserve scrutiny.

Today being Sunday and a day of rest amidst state of emergency lockdown, let’s take the time to think about some of these things carefully.

The first of the two biggest stories this week was the Tanumalala Prison breakout. After more than thirty prisoners escaped on Monday night in the latest prison break, the fallout has seen the Commissioner of Prisons and Correction Services, Taitosaua Edward Winterstein, resign among the changes made there.

The other big story, as it has been for a while now, is the health of the nation.

The wounds from the measles crisis, which killed 83 people, are still very fresh and the threat of the coronavirus is currently hanging over us with the results of suspected cases still outstanding. The behaviour of the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, has therefore come under the microscope.

To be precise, his late night antics where he was caught on video prancing around an unidentified woman in his underwear has generated a lot of discussion about ethics, morals and acceptable standards, especially for senior public servants.

Two equally controversial stories with two separate outcomes looking at Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Government’s response.

Let’s think about accountability, transparency and good governance and whether this applied fairly in both cases.

Taitosaua’s exit was foreseeable given the problems at the prison over the years. The history of prison breaks from when the prison was at Tafa’igata until they moved to a brand new $18.2million tala facility at Tanumalala is well documented.

For his role, Taitosaua was suspended for five months and subjected to not one but two separate investigations about his performance and how the prison was run. Both investigations vindicated the Commissioner who was reinstated by Cabinet in February.

But his return was short lived. A month later, Monday’s prison break out shook the nation. We’re not going to delve into the details in this piece. Suffice to say, Taitosaua did the honourable thing and resigned.

The Government also ushered in much-needed changes bringing the Prison back under the Police with immediate effect. Interestingly, as if it’s a reward, the same Minister in charge of the failed prison system has now been handed more responsibilities with the Police portfolio.

That truly boggles the mind but let’s park this here for the moment.

Now let’s glance across at the Ministry of Health and its Director General’s behaviour. In Saturday’s Weekend Observer, there is a story where Prime Minister Tuilaepa comes out all guns blazing to justify Leausa’s antics.

Describing the controversy as a “storm in a tea cup” and a “waste of time,” Tuilaepa said people making an issue about it are “not Samoans” and they don’t understand the nature of Samoan entertainment.

Further, he said Leausa has already apologised to Cabinet” and they have advised him to “exercise wisdom and foresight, and stay away from those ancient things.”

But that’s not all. Tuilaepa continued: “…it was just a fiafia (party). They had been busy with the measles and when that had just finished, they had a small fiafia.”

Really? A small fiafia after the measles epidemic? What is there to fiafia about?

Let us remind you that we are talking about a tragedy that killed 83 innocent Samoans. They did not have to die; this was a crisis that could have been prevented had the Government and people like Leausa heeded the countless warnings about Samoa’s low vaccination rates.

Up until now, the Government has refused to initiate a Commission of Inquiry into the measles crisis. Perhaps that is why Leausa was so happy that he “dropped” his lavalava.

 “It was all done in the spirit of laughter,” Tuilaepa said. “So who are those people (questioning this stuff? Are they Samoan? They are palagi, why are they bringing their palagi thinking to ruin our culture and traditions?”

Well that’s a poor attempt for an explanation, isn’t it? You don’t have to be Samoan, or any particular ethnicity, to know the difference between what is decent, morally accepted and respect.

But if you are a Samoan, any dancing Samoan, pe’a or not, would know the va tapuia and how to respect women. As Samoans, we can say that there is nothing Samoan about prancing and rubbing your genitals against a woman dancing to “Rhythm of the night.” That’s the stuff for strip clubs.

Let’s call it what it is worth; Leausa’s behaviour was disrespectful, unacceptable and unbecoming of a senior public servant in a public place. If he has already apologised to Cabinet, he should also publically apologise to Samoa. It’s the least he could do after everything this country has been through under his watch as the Director General of Health.

If the Prime Minister condones Leuasa’s behaviour as he appears to be, what message does that send out to all the public servants in terms of their conduct? What about all the young people of Samoa who look up to these people as leaders? Has this Government unwittingly set a new low for how not to behave if you are a public servant?

Today, think of Taitosaua, the way he was treated and the manner with which he resigned. We feel for him and his family but we also accept that the writing was on the wall, as soon as the latest prison break happened.

And then think about Leausa, the measles crisis, his behaviour, and how Prime Minister Tuilaepa continues to bat for the Director General of Health.

Do you think the principle of accountability, transparency and good governance was fairly applied to these cases? On the other hand, looking at how these cases were handled, doesn’t that speak the loudest about the kind of leadership responsible for the poor state of this nation today? Different strokes for different folks!

Tell us what you think?

Stay safe Samoa, God bless!


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