The “reality” of Samoan democracy in “new era”

The passing of the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020 by Parliament on Tuesday was not surprising at all. And so was the decision by the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi to deny a motion to discuss the findings of a Special Parliamentary Committee into the public's views of the controversial bills.

What this nation and the millions watching from around the world saw unfold was the continuation of a growing legacy being etched by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr.  Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) where Parliament merely becomes a rubberstamp in their crusade to fulfill their ambitions.

Nothing is sacred anymore; the Constitution of all things has become a mere plaything amended at will. It is a backward step for this nation. For many of us who follow Samoa’s political discourse closely, we saw it coming but we had hoped against all hopes that somewhere somehow common sense and decency would prevail.

Given the enormous evidence from Samoa and all over the world proving the destructive, divisive and detrimental impact these new laws will have on fundamental rights and our democratic institutions, one would have thought that the men and women sitting in Parliament would stand up and be counted.

Alas they did not. When it came down to the crunch, 41 Members of Parliament voted for the bills. Only four voted against. Numbers tell a story but we will come back to this point.

Interestingly the former Deputy Prime Minister and Lotofaga M.P., Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, had moved a motion to seek more time for Members to read through the Committee's report before discussing it in detail. Unsurprisingly again, both motions were denied which meant Parliament moved to the third reading of the bills, which contained critical changes by the Committee, based on a copy they had just been handed that morning.

And under those circumstances, the Committee’s report was approved; the bills were passed and met with a thundering applause from the H.R.P.P.-dominated Parliament.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa was an elated man hailing what he said was the birth of a true “Samoan democracy” which heralds a “new era” in the history of this country.

 “Today is the dawn of a new era for the Parliament of Samoa,” he declared.

“Why? Because it has been sixty years since our forefathers have wanted us to do this; to protect our country through the village council and also our lands and chiefly titles.”

With a big sigh of relief, Tuilaepa went on to say: “It is done. I want to thank and commend those that were part of bringing this to reality.”

What will our forefathers think about what is happening today though? What will they say if they were to see how the Government is treating the church and how different the Constitution appears now compared to what they came up with?

Interestingly, the word “reality” and the term “new era” are things we should all take time to think about more deeply. They are both bold and truthful. And it brings us back to the point about numbers and the vote count on Tuesday. It cannot be denied that the Parliamentary process was fulfilled.

But was it decent, was it fair, and was it exercised with love and care? What was the motivation for the Members who stood up for the bills? Did they think about the future of Samoa or were they merely concerned about the threats and fear of losing power within their own H.R.P.P. circle? What we are reminded of is the idea that just because it’s popular doesn’t make it principled and just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

From where we stand, the new “reality” does not look promising for Samoa.

With the consequences of these new laws and given the circumstances under which they were passed, the question everyone should be asking is what does this “reality” and “new era” entail for the ordinary Samoan?

What does it mean for the doctrine of separation of powers? What happens to fundamental and basic human rights, especially that of an individual? What about freedom of opinion and religion? Where does it leave Samoans when it comes to land ownership and customary lands? How much damage has this done to Samoa’s once wonderful international reputation when it comes to the respect for the rule of law?

There are so many unanswered questions. But isn’t that the “reality” of this “new era”? It’s a “new era” of smoke and mirrors, one of confusion, deception and muddying the water so people cannot tell the left from the right.

At the end of Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and the H.R.P.P. celebrated what they claimed as one of the biggest achievements during their tenure in power.

But we don’t see it that way. It is yet another sign of a house with pillars that are crumpling, but not from the force of an outside threat but the kind of demolition that is self-inflicted. What do you think?

Have a safe Thursday Samoa, God bless!  

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