Government’s sneaky law changes in a time of crisis
The Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been widely commended for stopping the deadly virus from reaching Samoa’s shores so far. And rightly so.
But it’s difficult to ignore the fact that amidst the virus response and under the State of Emergency lockdown, the Government continues to exploit the opportunity to ram down major law changes on unsuspecting members of the public whom they probably expect to follow silently.
These changes are tantamount to the abuse of process. They are strange at best and bizarre at worst. We say this because we cannot understand how some of these conditions and rules came about and what relevance they have to the coronavirus.
Take for instance the story titled “New emergency orders ban swimming” on the front page of the Weekend Observer. Yes you read it right; people are no longer allowed to swim. The new conditions were announced by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, who said the additional mandatory orders were necessary.
“We have to be alert in case someone dies from the deadly virus,” he said. “Swimming at the beach is forbidden in other countries [affected by COVID-19] and we should do so too.
“Stop going out for a swim; we should be cautious and be prepared mentally.”
Really? Samoa has no case of coronavirus, if what they are telling us is true. So how can someone die from something we don’t have?
On the other hand, how are buses, supermarkets and most places where members of the public congregate allowed and yet people cannot go swimming?
Where is the logic? Who is dreaming up these silly inventions?
Today being Sunday, the law change with the most devastating impact on members of the public involves the closure of all markets, including the popular Savalalo Fish Market.
According to amended S.O.E. orders, all markets including roadside stalls selling fish and anything else are now closed on Sunday morning. Supermarkets on the other hand will not be allowed to open until 3pm and they only do business for three hours. In making the announcement, Tuilaepa said the Government wants everyone to go to church.
Now this is the sort of bizarre explanation we are talking about.
After all these years where these markets have been opened in the morning on Sundays, has Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his government just woken up and realised that people need to go to church on Sunday?
Why introduce such a major change during the coronavirus S.O.E? Did the government ever consider seeking the views of the people affected?
It’s undeniable that people are hurting financially as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. For most vendors who have now been denied the opportunity, Sunday morning is arguably their busiest day. Sadly, many of them are ordinary hard working farmers and fishermen who did not benefit from the Government’s recent stimulus package.
In tough times like this, the Government should be doing everything they can to help people, not hurt them as they continue to do.
What’s more, it’s not as if these markets open for the whole day. By 9am, the majority of them are closed so that everyone attends church services. So what exactly is the issue? What prompted such a drastic decision? What was broken that needed to be fixed?
The answer is nothing, yes nothing was broken that required these silly and unnecessary changes. This is the Government behaving erratically knowing they have so much power they can do whatever they want regardless of the consequences.
Which is typical of what we are seeing in Samoa today. No consultation and no effort at all to view their policies from the lens of poor members of the public who are affected.
The worst part is that the Government is sneaking in these changes knowing very well that all eyes and attention are on the coronavirus. It is the worst form of manipulation when a Government exploits such a tragic situation to enforce its will on people. It is nothing but abuse of power and process.
How long will this continue? And when will Samoans finally have enough of such draconian decision-making?
This is not normal.
Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!