Four days from Christmas, the outlook doesn’t appear promising

Four days from Christmas, the outlook for Samoa appears alarmingly grim. As if it’s not enough trying to keep nose above water in dealing with the aftermath of the measles crisis, and the present impact of COVID19, Friday’s flooding has added another trial at possibly the worst time, not just for the Government but businesses and individuals affected.

We acknowledge that it could have been a lot worse and we are grateful that no lives were lost. We’re thinking of our neighbours in Fiji who have been devastated by Cyclone Yasa, claiming lives and leaving such a scale of devastation we don’t want to imagine. Category 5 cyclones are unforgiving, they do not discriminate between the rich and poor and they destroy with such power you wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. As a nation, we know what it feels like, we’ve been at the receiving end of a couple of those; experiences we’d rather forget.

Today, however, there is a lot to take in and deal with. And it’s not just the impact of natural disasters, pestilences and economic woes we are up against, we have arrived at a critical juncture in our journey as a nation with regards to political and democratic developments with long lasting consequences on the people of this nation.

The front page of the Sunday Samoan told the story of this country today. Whereas many businesses devastated by Friday’s floods are trying to pick up the pieces in the aftermath, ordinary members of the public had their own challenges to overcome, the most common being the task of finding a basic necessity like water.

Very few people in Samoa would not have been impacted by the nationwide water cuts during the past two days. We are in 2020 and you would think that with the Government boasting about all they have achieved and yet rain brought by a convergence zone knocks out water supply for more than two days. The pictures of families running around with buckets in the evening and even returning to the water springs on Sunday in search of water speak for themselves. They do not reflect well on the Government and all that they have boasted to have achieved infrastructure-wise, including an all for show Christmas lights display that has now become absolutely useless.

It’s not just water though. Look at the state of the roads, some of the bridges and how flooding exposed the vulnerability of our connections through the road network. Consider how that $140million airport was easily flooded within a few hours on Friday. Think about the ease with which flooding made the Apia Township inaccessible for many on Friday. What about all the infrastructural projects which have just opened only to be completely destroyed and shown up for the lack of quality in workmanship.

What are these things telling us? If they had a voice, what would they say? Do we not live in Samoa where our people believe and say everything happens for a reason? What are the elders of this country thinking? Can they speak up and share their wisdom about what they are seeing?

Another very sad story on Sunday’s front page came with the headline “Tourism Collapsing. Govt. idle: Hotels Association.” The story reminded about that impending collapse of the tourism industry, with the President of the Samoa Hotels Association, Tupai Saleimoa Vaai, lamenting the lack of Government assistance to avert what the industry is sailing towards. Left almost lifeless by the impact of COVID19, Friday’s floods could well have been the knock out blow for a number of these tourism properties. A case in point is that of Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel which was again inundated by water last weekend. This particular property has been flooded not once, not twice but several times now. Sheraton’s plight though is only the tip of the iceberg and according to Tupa’i, the industry is in “dire straits” desperate for Government’s help.

“….the Government needs to offer financial assistance to keep the industry going otherwise it will collapse,” Tupa’i said. “And it’s not just the hotels, restaurants, rental cars, and the entire business community. We are struggling and the Government needs to assist.”

 Well that’s a pretty clear message, isn’t it? If the Government does not hear it, we are heading for quite a disaster in terms of the nation’s economic and social well-being. Indeed there is a direct correlation between the economic struggles and the rise in crime and social ills that is manifesting in Samoa. We cannot separate these things. Poor people do desperate things and when your back is against the wall, there is nothing a man wouldn’t do to survive – including the unthinkable.

What is the Government up to these days? Are they listening at all?

Well they’ve been busy with the Christmas lights festival for starters. They’ve literally wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ money on an instant joy and instant fail project.

Apart from that, they have been busy rewriting the Constitution and fracturing Samoa’s democratic system in the process through the passage of three new laws, which among other things now give the Government power to remove Judges from the Supreme Court. The passing of the laws was hailed by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi last week as one of H.R.P.P’s finest achievements, saying it is a new era in the fact the Government has been bold enough to make the Samoan culture the driving force behind Samoa’s new form of democracy.

The story titled “Judicial reforms a joke”, also on the front page of the Sunday Samoan and featuring former Attorney General, Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, reacted to that quite aptly.

 “It’s a joke. It wasn’t prescribed by our forefathers because you live that,” Taulapapa said. “You don’t have to put it in a piece of law because that is how you live […] no piece of paper tells our alii and faipule and our families how to live their lives. They don’t. They never have.”

You can be the judge.

But purely from an administrative perspective, we’ve got people with no water, we have businesses that are failing, our tourism industry is teetering on the verge of total collapse and yet we have a Government that appears more worried about redefining boundaries and giving themselves praise for heralding a new era that has been described as a “joke” and laughed at by the international community?

Aside from the fact our people on their own merits are a resilient lot, and four days out from Christmas they will make the most of what little they have, the outlook for the future is grim indeed. What do you think?

Take care Samoa, God bless!





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