Fiame's exit heightens interest in Samoan politics, expert says

A regional expert says Samoa’s politics has always been of special interest in the Pacific region.

But Suva-based, Dr. Gordon Nanau, a Professor in Politics, Elections and Governance at the University of South Pacific (U.S.P.), believes that interest has been heightened with the abrupt departure of former Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa.

As a result, he said the region is paying keen attention to is happening in Samoa.

“I am not in a position to say for certain what the implications are for foreign relations. Nevertheless, many observers are looking on with a keen interest on what is happening in Samoa,” Dr. Nanau told the Samoa Observer from Fiji.

“For the region, Honorable Fiame Naomi Mata’afa is recognized for her leadership and concern for the welfare of Pacific people."

In the area of Development Studies, Dr. Nanau holds a master’s degree from U.S.P. and a doctorate from the University of Anglia in England.   At U.S.P.‘s School of Government, Development & International Affairs, Laucala Bay campus, Dr. Nanau teaches three courses: Governance and Development in the Pacific; Political Parties, Elections and Democracy in the Pacific; and Political Leadership.

Fiame is former Pro-Chancellor of U.S.P.

“For instance, in the recent turbulence at U.S.P., she was among a few leaders in the region who made statements and reminded others of the importance of regional institutions and organisations,” said Dr. Nanau.

“Others see her as a seasoned regional politician with vast experience in regional matters. At this stage, people are watching with a lot of interest and possibly guessing what may happen in the immediate future or after the 2021 General Election in Samoa.”

Dr. Nanau has been teaching and researching for 10 years at U.S.P. He chose the field because it has always been an area of interest for him.

“I have always been interested in politics and governance because they tell us something about the sorts of development that takes place in a particular country,” he said.

“Samoa’s [former] Deputy Prime Minister, Honorable Fiame Naomi Mata’afa is among the longest serving and experienced Members of Parliament in Samoa. Moreover, she has been a very senior member of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) since 1985.”

Fiame’s resignation could be an indication of changes to come.

“With her long experience and association with H.R.P.P., this resignation could be an indication of changes to come. H.R.P.P. has been in power in Samoa for more than three decades,” said Dr. Nanau.

And resignation by the Deputy Prime Minister could indicate three things, he explained.

It could mean “an internal split within H.R.P.P.; ideological differences over what is regarded good policy and legislation, or the need for a change to the status quo,” Dr. Nanau added.

“The government system and structure in Samoa is resilient and has been quite stable with matured leadership. Even if changes do happen in the future, they could only be for the good of the country and its people. I do not see the need for alarm at this stage,” he said.

The 2021 elections will be an important election for Samoans and voters must educate themselves on the various political parties.

“It can either result in leadership change or maintaining the status quo. Indeed, Samoans will have another chance to determine the future of the country and who their political leaders would be. It is important that voters have an open mind and the willingness to listen to the range of policy options offered by all political parties who will contest the 2021 election,” said Dr. Nanau.

“The Samoan voters must use the opportunity to educate themselves on what the various political parties may have in stock for their future. Understanding and appreciating the different options offered by various political parties and candidates will allow them to make informed choices on who to vote for when polling day arrives. I say this fully conscious of the fact that in Pacific elections, policies are just one consideration.”

There are other factors such as cultural affiliations and obligations that may ultimately influence the final decision on who to vote for, he added.

“Even so, voters must be open minded and willing to learn as much as possible on the options offered by political parties and groups in the lead up to the 2021 elections,” Dr. Nanau said.

“I would say a good political leader is one who is willing to serve his or her people diligently and is mindful of the common good over his or her own self-interest.”

It is easier said than done, he notes, because a lot of factors do influence the way decisions are reached at the political level.

“The influences that feed into decisions in the Pacific may include those coming from religion, culture, tradition and our modern formalized institutions. A good political leader must appreciate these different domains and be willing to make decisions that will benefit the wider society. At the same time, a good political leader is one that continuously develops young upcoming leaders for the future of society,” Dr. Nanau told the Observer.

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