Divided loyalties need calming voice of reason

From moving at a snail’s pace during the actual election period, to the warp-speed legal maneuverings we have witnessed this past week, the people of Samoa are likely suffering from a serious case of political whiplash.

As legal proceedings continue in the Supreme Court on Monday regarding the interpretation of the Constitution, both Human Rights Protection Party and Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi remain on 26 seats apiece, and the people of Samoa remain adrift in uncharted waters, sans compass. 

While the country awaits a conclusion to this period of political history, the parties remain at loggerheads over who shall reign supreme over the next five year Parliamentary term. 

As reported in today’s edition, the H.R.P.P. have appointed their senior leadership roles – with reports of Lauofo Fonotoe Pierre Meredith as the Deputy Leader and likely Deputy Prime Minister, Fuimaono Sam Te’o as Speaker of the House and Ale Vena Ale as Deputy Speaker.

That the incumbents have forged ahead with selecting government positions, prior to the decision of the courts on whether their 26th member’s election is lawful, tells us much about the confidence they have in their position. 

When queried about the H.R.P.P. appointments, Legislative Assembly Clerk, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei said there is no majority hold by either party right now. 

“The parties have been advised to wait for the petitions in this situation.

“If a party has appointed a Speaker then they will fall short of the majority number [with current results] and that is why I’m saying that the nominations cannot be done at this stage.” 

So why the bold and preemptive move by H.R.P.P. to make appointments?

Are they merely fanciful assumptions from the ruling party or the oblivious decision-making of politicians, accustomed to railroading ahead with their wants? 

Or is this a show of solidarity and organisation, to illustrate that they have already planned ahead for this very moment. The party’s political stripes and their longevity are beneficial in this respect – everyone knows their place and the hierarchy is set. 

The bomb dropped on Tuesday night by the Office of the Electoral Commission announcing, several days after the Final Count of votes had been completed, the addition of a sixth woman to Parliament – Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau - seems to have solidified H.R.P.P.’s efforts to regain power. 

The announcement contradicted an earlier confirmation by Commissioner Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio that there was no need to activate the Constitutional provision that mandates the number of women in Parliament. 

The announcement also seems to have rattled the F.A.S.T. camp. They hurriedly submitted to the courts on Wednesday, a motion to void the election warrant for Aliimalemanu; also filing a second motion against the member-elect from Faasaleleaga No.5 – Peseta Vaifou Tevagaena - seeking to void his election based on information relating to past convictions.

Perhaps a testament to their unpreparedness, F.A.S.T.’s lawyers were forced to withdraw the challenge against Peseta due to wrong information received.

They were also instructed by the Supreme Court to tidy up their motion against Aliimalemanu, for what appears to be minor, but sloppy, oversights [Aliimalemanu’s name was incomplete, the citation of the Attorney General’s office when the O.E.C. is an independent statutory entity]. 

There was also one glaring omission – F.A.S.T.’s motion did not say why they believe the warrant [to elect Aliimalemanu] is unconstitutional and unlawful.

If this was a legal ploy to gain more time to prepare, then it worked because the Supreme Court called an adjournment to Monday. Monday is also the reported date of return of the Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese who has been on medical leave.

So while the legal minds work overtime to find an answer to the dilemma of a 26-all deadlock; and both parties remain acrimonious towards each other, the community deals with the fallout. 

Many a friendship and relationship has been tested over divided loyalties to H.R.P.P. and F.A.S.T. 

Even the once mighty Tautua Samoa Party has returned to the stage, throwing accusations at F.A.S.T. for a broken gentlemen’s agreement. Their leader, Luagalau Afualo Dr. Wood Salele has added his voice by calling for a second election.

Now more than ever, we need a reasonable voice in the ears of our people, guiding them towards peace and respect for one another.

Where would we find such a voice in this splintered nation, with families and communities at odds over political preferences?

At Church, of course.

Are we not in times that require ministry from priests and preachers? The uncertainty of who will next govern us, and how that will happen, is unknown at this stage.

These are unprecedented times and we are experiencing the full gamut of basic human emotions – happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise and anger – causing disenchantment amongst our people.

Many stories in the Bible speak of power struggles that leave a path of destruction along the way.

While we may not have the war, gore and sex of Bible stories, we do have the intrigue and general malaise that follows a power struggle.

While politicians arm themselves with expensive lawyers, the country goes about its business, absorbing all the turmoil.

As revered leaders of our communities, the church ministers have the respect of the people and their influence is pervasive in our everyday lives. For whom else or what else does a nation stop everything and listen quietly?

So a gentle word to soothe the bruised egos, hurt spirits and temper the strong-willed, would do wonders for a fractured nation, and give us a chance to recharge. For Monday will bring about the next round of challenges, and we'll start all over again.

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