Afoa’s bravery. Now where are the rest of the “good men” of Samoa?
Member of Parliament for Palauli West, Afoa Faleulu Mauli, is a brave man.
At a time when Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the Government is throwing everything – including a Parliamentary Committee – to promote the passage of three bills which proposes to reshape the Judiciary, Afoa’s decision to boldly present his constituency’s opposition to the bills, in such a delicate atmosphere, is worth thinking about.
Other Members of Parliament should take note.
Those men and women in Parliament after all, some of them the most intelligent people in Samoa, are not there to warm the benches and make feel good speeches to satisfy the whim of a party and their selfish goals. They are not there to be bound by party rules that they would lose touch with reality and speak with their eyes and ears closed, against what the constituents are yearning for.
Rather they are there as representatives of the voters who placed them there. If anything, it is their oath to be the mouthpiece for the people whom they represent, whether they agree with a certain issue or not. It is why Abraham Lincoln coined the famous phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” It is because a Parliament without the people’s voice is not a Parliament at all. And when Members of Parliament refuse to listen to the people they represent, they shouldn’t be there anymore.
Which is why Afoa’s decision to risk the ire of the all-powerful Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) by voicing his constituency’s opposition to the bill is something that we should applaud and encourage. This is what democratic Parliaments are about. They are about a variety of opinions, even if it goes against the status quo.
To understand the difficulty Afoa faced in Parliament last week, we don’t have to look further than the ousting of Gagaifomauga No. 3 Member of Parliament, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao, from the H.R.P.P. It’s a story that has been well told. Suffice to say; when La’auli opposed a bill brought by the Government, citing what his constituency wanted, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and the H.R.P.P. sacked him. Pronto.
This would have been at the back of Afoa’s mind. But he had a job to do. Last month, a delegation from Palauli Sisifo, Savai’i, met with their Member of Parliament. During the meeting, the delegation made it clear they do not accept the bills. They reminded Afoa of his duty to deliver the views of his constituency inside Parliament without fear.
“Afoa, be brave: your constituency has come from Savai’i to tell you of how we feel about the bills,” Faletuai Toeafe Leatamoa told Afoa, according to a video recording of the meeting. ”Voice the position of your constituency and we can assure you, you will return [in the next general election].”
During the debate of the 2020/2021 budget on Thursday, Afoa mustered the courage needed to deliver Palauli Sisifo’s opposition.
“The most crucial matter that my district is worried about under the bill is the limited number of matai title holders,” he said about the proposal to limit the number of matai sa’o to five. “I agree with the concerns from my district. Why is the Government interfering with family measina? Families should govern their own [affairs]? Whether they decide on one, five or a hundred matai sa’o, do not meddle with families and their right over their measina.”
As expected, Afoa was immediately shut down with Deputy Speaker, Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti, warning him against discussing matters pertaining to a Parliamentary Committee.
But Afoa wouldn’t let up. He stood his ground to argue that it is his responsibility and duty as the representative of Palauli Sisifo in the Legislative Assembly to voice the views of his constituency. He added that the most important thing is for his constituents to hear him deliver their wish at the Maota Fono.
Take a bow Afoa. You have done Palauli Sisifo proud.
Last year when Parliament voted to redefine the electoral boundaries, disrespecting the sacred constituencies put in place by Samoan customs and traditional salutations, if only the Member of Parliament for Gagaemauga No. 2 was as brave to do the same for his constituency. He was silent. Dead silent.
But that’s understandable, given the atmosphere created by the existence of a one-party state in Parliament where Members have become extremely fearful about what they say in case they offend the ruler.
This is why Afoa’s courage and bravery is awfully and wonderfully inspiring. With Afoa’s stance emerging on the back of La’auli’s decision to walk away and also stand up for what his constituency demanded of him, there is hope for democracy in Samoa.
There is hope that not all Members of Parliament have become so loyal to the party and an ideal that they forget the importance of their voice and what that means to a proper functioning Parliamentary system. There is hope that your voice will be heard.
On this Sunday in Samoa, let us be reminded of the wise words of Abraham Lincoln who said: "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
Now where are the rest of the “good men” of Samoa? We know there are many. This is your time.
Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!