Heroes, heroines lay foundation for nation’s success
Samoa turned 61 yesterday as a sovereign nation with the Independence celebrations this week at Mulinu’u and the presence of foreign dignitaries confirming where we sit amongst a community of nations.
It is a good feeling to be the master of your own destiny as a nation and be in a position to steer the country on a path to economic prosperity and well-being for our 200,000-plus people. We continue to be thankful to our forefathers – having made numerous sacrifices over the 61 years of our journey – for preparing the nation and its people for this journey, boosted by our Christian foundations and the fa’asamoa to create a uniquely Samoan success story.
The country has been a trailblazer in the Pacific Islands. Samoa, according to development partners and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, made great strides since the turn of the last century in advancing human development. Samoa had the region’s highest life expectancy with the maternal mortality ratio cut by half over the last 20 years. Enrollment rates for primary and secondary schools also grew to 94 per cent and 85 per cent respectively. Women's representation in the country’s decision-making institutions has also increased, following constitutional changes in 2013. The historical election of Samoa’s first woman Prime Minister, Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa in the 2021 General Election, was the culmination of many years of growth, progress, and stability as a democracy.
But at the cusp of celebrating a major milestone as a democratic nation, in the election of the country’s first woman Prime Minister, we also came close to losing our right to a democratically elected government. The Constitutional Crisis of 2021, driven by the refusal of the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) leadership to concede defeat following the general election, confirmed the vulnerability of our democratic institutions to the whims of politicians and their agents. It also affirmed the fact that we must and should not take our democracy for granted but rather promote its ideals and values that it stands for while acknowledging the long-term aspiration to create a nation of equals through equitable wealth distribution.
Nonetheless, there were many heroes and heroines along the way, in our journey of life, whose belief and selflessness to nurture and mould a generation of leaders brought us this far and contributed to nation-building and national success. Some of them, deservedly, were recognised on Wednesday as recipients of the Government revamped Honours and Awards.
The former Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Efi, Gatoloaifa’aana Tilianamua Afamasaga, Palanitina Tupuimatagi Toelupe, Tusani Iosefatu Reti, Asi Tuiataga James Fa'afili Blakelock, Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale, Retired Reverend Tupu Folasa II, Retired Reverend Tautiaga Senara, Sister Emanuela Betham, Brother Kevin O'Malley, Asuao Ta'alili Williams, Luaipou Sally Betham, Sapa'u Lilomaiava Lolesio Vitale, Solialofi Papali'i Pisimaka, and Tuaopepe Asiata Jerry Wallwork were awarded medals on Wednesday. We take off our hats to the 15 Samoans honoured for their hard work, dedication, and outstanding service to the country and its people.
Driven by their love for the nation, the 15 medal recipients laid the foundations for nation-building to continue into the future, and it is now up to the current and upcoming generation of Samoans to take it to the next level.
In recent weeks and months, we’ve published stories on the success of Samoans today in a plethora of fields, who have returned to the motherland to give back to the country and the people as a token of appreciation for the success that they’ve enjoyed in their careers here and abroad. Thanks to their upbringing in the traditional values of the fa’asamoa, there are younger working Samoans keen on returning home to give back by sharing their knowledge and skills with local colleagues. These are promising signs for the future as the country celebrates its 61st Independence anniversary.
But the job of nation-building in Samoa should not only be left to the smartest and the brightest of this island paradise's working class. Everyone in the community has a responsibility to play their part – if we are to have long-term solutions to tackle social evils – such as violence against women and girls, the abuse of children as well as theft and corruption in both the government and private sectors.
If there was a noble cause behind our forefathers’ fight for citizens to fully exercise their rights in the land of the free, it would be for the people to speak out in the face of evil.
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