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P.M's comments disparaging, says son of Tama Aiga

The son of one of the Tama Aiga who co-chaired the Constitutional Convention of Samoa has expressed his disapproval of a statement by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi which he said disrespected the forefathers. 

Dr. Morgan Tuimaleali’ifano, who is the son of the late Tama Aiga, Tuimaleali’ifano Suatipatipa II says: “the statement seems disparaging to both our forefathers and their palagi advisers”. 

The comment from Tuilaepa was made on the national 2AP radio where he claimed Samoa’s forefathers did not understand the Constitution when the palagi emphasised individual rights above Samoan culture. 

He was responding to mounting concerns on the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020. 

The palagi that Tuilaepa referred to were Dr. Colin Aikman, a constitutional lawyer and Dr. James W. Davidson, a political historian who were advisors with the Constitutional Convention. 

But Dr. Tuimaleali’ifano, who is also a historian, said the role of the palagi advisors in the Constitutional Convention was because the forefathers trusted them.  

He pointed out that when the Convention met, the Joint-Chairs were Tama Aiga and the Constitutional advisor to the Samoan Government as recommended by the Joint-Chair was Davidson. 

In his authoritative history of Samoa, said Dr. Tuimaleali’fano, Davidson wrote, ‘I was regarded as one who had identified himself with the people of Samoa, rather than with the expatriate group, and who had been willing to suffer official unpopularity through giving support to Samoan interests…” 

“My acceptance of the appointment had been sought, since it was believed that I would assist the Working Committee to draft a Constitution adapted to Samoan needs,” Dr. Tuimaleali’ifano quoted Davidson’s history. 

“As for Aikman, the New Zealand constitutional adviser, his advice to the Convention was at first received with caution and some doubts,” said the historian. 

“But, when the Committee became satisfied that he spoke from personal conviction and from knowledge of local circumstances, and not as a mere spokesman for New Zealand, it gave him its confidence and as a constitutional lawyer of wide experience, he was able to make a major contribution to its work.

"The roles of advisers by these two palagi were accepted by our forefathers because they had placed their confidence in them.”

An Associate Professor in History at the University of the South Pacific (U.S.P.), the son of the late Tama Aiga said there was wisdom in the forefathers in picking the two advisors.

“Our forefathers may not understand everything in the work of constitutional making (mine certainly didn’t), but they had placed their confidence in Davidson and Aikman because their hearts were in the right place, with Samoa,” said Dr. Tuimaleali’ifano.

“The fact that Samoa remains independent for almost 60 years with minimal political upheaval is a testament to the commitment of heart and soul from all our forefathers and their Samoan advisers.”

Questioning what did the forefathers did not understand as mentioned by the Prime Minister, the historian said, presumably it was something related to human or individual rights.  

“If they did not understand it, two distinguished professors were hired for the purpose of assisting the Convention, one was a constitutional lawyer, Dr Colin Aikman and the other was political historian, Dr James W Davidson,” he added.

“They were there for the expressed purpose of assisting rather than hindering the work of the Convention towards the goal of achieving independence based on a workable constitution.

“Experience has shown that the stability of a new state is greatly affected by the manner in which representatives of the people are associated with the work of constitution-making, by the legal form of Constitutional enactment, and by the timing of that enactment in relation to the termination of political dependency.” 

Other ancestors of the forefathers that founded Samoa's Constitution had equally criticised the Prime Minister for insulting their ancestors who fought for Samoa's path to freedom. 

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