Past, present and those chicken bones

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 13 January 2016, 12:00AM

It’s important that we remember the past. That much is undeniable because unless we remember where we came from, we are unlikely to know where we are going. 

In other words, to move forward, we must never lose sight of the past. It means that from time to time, we need to pause, reflect, assess and appreciate the steps we’ve taken to where we are today.

But remembering and acknowledging the past and living in the past are completely different kettles of fish. We don’t want the latter. 

You see, to continue to harp on about the past in an effort to justify complacency and mediocrity is something else. It’s pathetic, we believe. 

The thought comes to mind after reading Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s comments on the front page of the Sunday Samoan under the headline “Lets not forget.”

Cautioning Samoa against believing election promises that encourage a spoon-feeding mentality, Tuilaepa revisited the early days of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P) reign.

 “We don’t want to go back to what led to the strike of 1981 when the government was broke,” he reminded. “Not only did the government not have any money, there were no foreign reserves.” 

“That’s why the shelves in the shops were empty; we had six months where there was no cigarettes available anywhere.” 

“All we had to eat were chicken bones. So that’s what we’ve got to be very careful about.”

For the uninitiated, the Prime Minister was responding to a number of initiatives revealed by the Opposition Party if they win the General Elections in March. Among the plans is a National Education Fund proposing free education, increasing the retirement pension, free health care for children, a Medicare insurance scheme among others.

Tuilaepa was obviously unimpressed.

“These guys want everything to be spoon fed,” he reacted. “They want to give everything for free and yet they don’t want to borrow money. How can you fund all this?”

“If only trees will bear fruit with hundred tala notes but that doesn’t happen. That’s why the government is very careful about its plans.”

Tuilaepa then took a journey down memory lane. 

He recalled that back in 1981 when the H.R.P.P came into power, the then Prime Minister, the late Tofilau Eti Alesana appointed him as the Minister of Finance to put in place a strategy to get Samoa out of the hole it had found itself in at the time.

Fast forward to today, Tuilaepa said the government continues to exercise caution when it comes to making development plans.

“This is what I mean by saying they are turning back the clock,” Tuilaepa said about the Tautua Party. “It’s been 15 years since these services have been offered for free and yet this party doesn’t understand. What’s happening is that their research is not being done properly to confirm these things before they make an announcement.” 

Don’t get us wrong; the Prime Minister makes some valid points. 

And the people of this country will be the perfect judges for his comments.

But for goodness sakes it’s been nearly 40 years. 

What’s worse in our view is that this now seems to be Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s trump card every time he is trapped, it’s beginning to sound like a scratched record.

Keep in mind that back in those days, there were hardly any tar sealed roads. Electricity and running water were luxuries and there was one telephone booth for everyone to use. 

Yes folks we’re talking nearly 40 years ago when the nation’s national debt was $15million. It has been a while.

Today, we are grateful of course that those challenges are now a thing of the past for most people. While tar sealed roads are found right across the country, basic utilities like electricity, running water and telecommunication have improved tremendously. 

But that’s the least we should expect, especially when our foreign debt has now ballooned to more than a billion tala and climbing rapidly.

Besides, that’s what governments are supposed to do. 

Indeed, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and the H.R.P.P are paid millions of taxpayers tala by you, me and all Samoans – including overseas-based Samoans – to develop this country. It is their job. 

What’s particularly deceiving about this nonsense is the idea that we as a people owe the progress of today to the government. 

Ladies and gentlemen, please wake up. 

The government is not doing you any special favours by bringing electricity, a telephone and water into your home. Those tar-sealed roads are not there because they love you that much. Far from it. 

It is the government’s job to provide you those basic services. We are all paying for it – and a hefty price too I might add. 

Keep in mind, we are living in 2016.  

The questions we should all be asking are these: 

• For all those millions of tala the government now has access to to develop Samoa, how has it improved your prospects in life? 

• Is the government walking the talk about transparency, accountability and good governance?

• Do you think life in Samoa could be better? If so, how?

   We could go on and on but we will stop there for now.

But we ask these questions because in our opinion, some of our people have become so passive in their response they have accepted a life of mediocrity when it could be better. Apathy is a dangerous thing.

When people choose to accept a life of mediocrity because they think that’s all they are entitled to, something tells us it’s just plain wrong. And perhaps it’s why Prime Minister Tuilaepa keeps harping on about the past because it makes him and his government feel good about where we are today. 

Come to think of it though, away from bright lights and all this big political talk, not much has changed. Most of our people are still eating chicken bones. And they are tired of it. You should ask them.

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 13 January 2016, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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