Let’s not be distracted by the name-calling, look beyond Tuilaepa and his games
It’s easy to get distracted, confused and sidetracked by the spin politicians put on issues. Regardless of what the issue is or the consequences, it’s safe to say politicians will say whatever to justify their decisions.
But then what else do we expect from politicians? It’s the nature of the beast. Experience from the world over tells us that politicians are not exactly meant to be messengers of simplicity and truth. They will spin things in any direction to suit their political agenda – whatever that is - and they are certainly not afraid to manipulate, where they see the need.
In some cases, the strategy is quite obvious especially when it comes to controversial laws, which attract strong opposition and resistance from the population. They stir the pot with so many emotions, sentiments and half-baked stories it becomes so cloudy people cannot see clearly what is at stake. The modus operandi being that the cloudier the water the better it is for them.
The thought comes to mind looking at the Government’s tune on the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, Lands and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020. The bills, which propose to separate the Lands and Titles Court from the Criminal Court among other monumental changes, have been talked about at length on the pages of this newspaper.
Suffice to say they have been heavily criticised by Judges, members of the legal fraternity and many other Samoans who are gravely concern about the destruction of the Judiciary, the violation of the separation of powers concept and the damage it will have on peace, stability and the future generations of this country.
In Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, as expected, brushed aside all these concerns simply by saying they are “palagi” thinking. As if the derogatory reference to palagi (white people) wasn’t offensive enough, Tuilaepa wasn’t done. He then insulted all the Samoans who have dared question the bills, many of them highly ranked matai in their families, leaders of their villages and churches, by saying they are not ‘Samoan enough.’
Listen to him: “I suspect that if the matai who are opposing these bills were living in their villages and involved in their village councils, it would’ve been easy for them to understand the intent of the bills.
“However none of them sits in a village council of the villages where they hold matai titles. Which means, the last time the village council saw them was the day they were bestowed with a title. They haven’t been seen in the village since, let alone sit in during a village council meeting to observe how matters are dealt with by orators and paramount chiefs of Samoa.”
If you are one of the people he is referring to, and we know whom he is referring to here, it’s only natural to be offended, angry and upset. Who wouldn’t be? How dare Tuilaepa? But then that’s exactly what a politician wants, let alone someone as seasoned and cunning like Tuilaepa.
Politicians know that when they fail to inspire people, the next best option is to manipulate them. They play mind games designed to distract and divert attention from the real issues. Which is precisely what we are seeing in Samoa today, with these L.T.C bills.
This Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) Government has been using this ploy for a long time but it’s become more apparent and quite obvious lately. Is this a sign? What does it tell us about Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his thinking? Fatigue maybe?
The tactic is to play one group against another – even if it’s Samoan against Samoan. The goal is to insult and stir the pot so people become caught up in name-calling, emotions and insults that they forget what the real issues are.
Trust us, we know. Over the years, we’ve been called several nasty names ourselves. It hurts because we’re humans and we have families too. But we’re better than that and for what it is worth; we’d happily take the insults for a better Samoa.
But we’d like to believe that, as Samoans, we are above this sort of nonsense.
We have come a long way as a country and it must be acknowledged that Tuilaepa and this Government have done a lot to improve the lives of Samoans. Which is why it’s a tragedy to see all that work being undone by the Prime Minister’s use of such undignified language.
As a matured politically independent nation, we should be at a stage where we can have a constructive conversation and debate about issues – including L.T.C. Bills - without being irrational about it. We should be at a stage where we agree to disagree with the hope that out of such disagreements, laws and legislation passed by Parliament are strengthened and always put the interest of members of the public first and foremost.
Looking at what is happening today, our fervent prayer and hope is that we do not lose track of the real issues amidst the intensifying battle of personalities and name-calling. That said, we acknowledge with gratitude everyone – Samoan or otherwise - who has stood up to voice their opinion for or against the L.T.C. bills. This is what freedom of opinion and expression is all about. This is what democracy is for. It’s a pity that, apart from Prime Minister Tuilaepa and former Attorney General Lemalu Herman Retzlaff, all other relevant Government officials from whom we’ve attempted to seek their views on the matter have been silent.
For the Judges of the Criminal Court, the leadership of the Samoa Law Society and all the Samoan experts, matai, academics, political parties, women and children in Samoa and abroad who have expressed their views in opposing the bills, we accept that it is a brave decision to do so under the current political climate. But that’s what is needed in times like this.
Let us remember the words of Edmund Burke in a letter to Thomas Mercer, where he wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
There is a lot at stake. We are talking about measina we have inherited from our forefathers including lands, titles, families, language, fundamental rights and freedoms, Constitutional rights, concept of separation of powers and a lot, lot more. These are worth fighting for.
They are bigger than us, you, the Government or anyone else. It is also why we should not be distracted by Tuilaepa’s political games.
We owe it to our ancestors who pioneered and paved the way with their blood, sweat and tears. We also owe it to our children today and the unborn generations of Samoa to continue to fight within the confines of the law, what is decent, respectable and with dignity.
Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!