Ridiculing of Public Service ethos unacceptable

It doesn’t seem to get any better for our public servants as they strive to uphold the values and principles of public office.

You just have to look at some of the promotional material put together over the years by the Public Service Commission – which emphasises a focus on honesty, impartiality, service, respect, efficiency and effectiveness, accountability and transparency – and you realise during this tumultuous period following a political-landscape changing general election just how far the apple has fallen from the tree.

On Monday morning the Supreme Court will begin deliberations on a decision by the Office of the Electoral Commission and Electoral Commissioner Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio – himself a senior public servant – to overturn an earlier decision on the country’s gender quota law and bring in another woman Member-elect into the ranks of the Human Rights Protection Party to bolster its numbers to 26 to tie with the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party.

The court proceedings were instituted by the F.A.S.T. which wants the Supreme Court to rule the decision by the O.E.C. unlawful and unconstitutional.

Last Friday the Samoa Observer published a photo of Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Sativa Perese on the streets of Apia on its front page, with the photo taken seven days after he was released from quarantine following his return from Auckland, New Zealand.

Prior to the publishing of the story on the Chief Justice and his seven-day quarantine, the public didn’t know that the caretaker Government through the Ministry of Health gave special dispensation for returning residents who were already vaccinated, which meant they only had to stay in isolation for seven and not 14 days.

The Chief Justice, himself a senior public servant, downplayed concerns about the limited time he spent in quarantine.

“If there (were concerns) I wouldn’t come out,” he said when asked to comment.

“There were other people too, that were released because they received full shots as well. You should speak to [Director General] Leausa [Dr. Take Naseri]. 

“I think there are a few of us that came on this flight who have full vaccinations and so all of us, were allowed to come at some point.”

But the Chief Justice appears to forget that while there were “other people” – who were also inoculated and thus come under the same category as him – the Government-issued State of Emergency Orders that stipulated a 7-day quarantine for fully vaccinated passengers wasn’t made public until a day after his arrival and immediately following the Samoa Observer’s publishing of the story.

On Saturday the caretaker Government’s Press Secretariat advised the local media that the National Emergency Operations Centre will hold a press conference at 4.30pm, which will be  chaired by the Interim Chair Agafili Shem Leo and the M.O.H. Director General Leausa Dr Take Naseri.

It turned out that the N.E.O.C. press conference on Saturday afternoon was about the early release of the Chief Justice from quarantine, and marked the first time the two senior public servants revealed the 7-day quarantine period for incoming residents from American Samoa and New Zealand who were fully vaccinated.

How convenient for the public to know of the new quarantine rules immediately following the arrival of the Chief Justice! But would the caretaker Government and our public servants have advised us of the rule changes if the Chief Justice wasn’t among the incoming passengers?

Public servants’ inconsistencies in applying the rules doesn’t do the country and its people any favours and the one relating to the Chief Justice’s 7-day quarantine appears to be one of those.

Therefore it is not surprising that the quarantine issue concerning the Chief Justice has been raised by the F.A.S.T. party leader Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, who is of the view that the Chief Judge was released early for election petition cases which could ultimately determine the next Government.

It appears that the work ethics promoted by the Public Service Commission focusing on honesty, impartiality, service, respect, efficiency and effectiveness, accountability and transparency continues to be ridiculed and hijacked by the powers that be.

Do you remember the decision a fortnight ago by the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture, the National University of Samoa and the Samoa Qualifications Authority to hold their prayer service at Sogi at the H.R.P.P. Maota i Petesa despite a Public Service Commission circular urging public servants to be politically neutral?

A day after the Samoa Observer published a story together with an editorial that was critical of the Ministry with the N.U.S. and the S.Q.A. holding their prayer service at the party’s headquarters, the post of the church service was removed from the M.E.S.C. official Facebook page.

Former Attorney General Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu was scathing of the role of public servants in the electoral process, decrying what she described as their failure to act as a check and balance mechanism against potentially unfair calls by leaders.

“This also creates a particular and hostile ‘modus operandi’ for public servants, especially if they want to stay employed or serve another term for the Leader, which is that you offer the advice he wants to hear, and you anticipate what will be pleasing to the Leader, and what will cause you embarrassment in front of all your peers at [Cabinet Development Committee] and act accordingly,” Taulapapa said in an analysis on the current constitutional crisis (H.R.P.P. in “coup” attempt: former A.G.).

If you are take the late night issuing of press releases quoting correspondence signed by the Head of State, as well as hastily called media conferences on a Saturday to justify why the Chief Justice should be spared the 14-day quarantine period that every other Samoan has been subjected to, then it becomes obvious that something is amiss.

It is simple if you are a public servant but chose to play politics through your actions and decisions then by all means resign and prepare for the next general election as you are in the wrong job.

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