Speaking out should not be discouraged

By The Editorial Board 22 March 2024, 10:00AM

It seems a bit unfair to what has happened to the management of the Samoa National Provident Fund, however, if protocols are not followed, then there have to be consequences. But it seems that people are being punished for speaking out against something they saw was wrong.

The management spoke out against the chair of the SNPF because they felt something was not right. They took the best option because they felt writing to someone else or raising the issue elsewhere would end up with no results. Instead of being applauded for speaking out against alleged discrepancies, the stick has been turned on them.

These are similar to the allegations levelled against the chair who was allegedly not following protocols. It seems a bit unfair that for one party, people had to speak out and write to the topmost authority to be heard. The question that arises now is if the management had followed the protocol, would their complaints have been heard?

It was reported on Thursday 21 March that an internal investigation by the country’s superannuation body on concerns raised by senior staff against the conduct of the board chairman has backfired with the entire management being served with administrative charges.

The grievances from the management were directed at the now-suspended chairman, Papali'i Panoa Moala alleging abuse of authority and claims of ignoring established protocol amongst others.

Although the Minister of Finance told the media the concerns from the management will be investigated by an independent panel from the Ministry of Public Enterprise (M.P.E.) and the Ministry of Finance (M.O.F.), the S.N.P.F. Board has gone ahead with its investigation through the Grievances Committee.

The Grievances Committee served charges against the management pre-empting the outcome of the independent investigation that is not yet completed.

The complaint by the senior management is being investigated and the outcome of that investigation is not out yet. The complaint by the management would have to have some grounds for all of them to come together and raise the issue.

The SNPF looks after the money that belongs to the people of Samoa. Good governance, accountability and transparency should be observed at all times and this should apply to the staff, management, and even the board. It is about time, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance intervenes in this situation and does right by the management.

There seems to be a pattern at work here. Earlier the plight of a matai was highlighted as she spoke out against threats to oust villagers who dare go public by asking questions about the $1 million development fund to keep those in office in check.

There were serious issues of concern. It was about alleged nepotism, possible corruption, and above all, a dictatorship style of how people are being oppressed into not speaking about injustice and corruption. One of the key fundamentals of living in a democracy is one’s ability to point out the wrongdoings in society, the government, the judiciary, and in the community.

Earlier this week, the plight of a family from Savaii was also highlighted. They were banished because they complained about a teacher who physically assaulted a child.

It seems people are being sent a message that you should never speak out against injustice or you might end up getting punished. This is equal to telling young women and girls not to speak about physical and sexual violence, this is similar to not reporting a person of power who continues to mishandle public funds or not raising alarms when civil servants are corrupt.

It might seem staying silent is a way of avoiding conflicts and unnecessary drama but then, it could be sending a wrong signal. Refusing to speak against injustice might translate to accepting the status quo. This makes people enablers of injustice.

If it happens to anyone, then it can happen to you. When injustice abounds, it breaks all strata of moral thresholds and creates room for more injustice. As long as you fail to speak up against little things, you are exposing your human rights to being trampled upon in the future. If little issues are often overlooked, they aggravate into bigger societal issues. Therefore, if you are not speaking up when things are wrong, you might find yourself embroiled in the issues you once overlooked.

Why are we tolerating this injustice? It seems that those in power have become too comfortable and are willing to use that power to keep everyone silent. This is seen at the village level when someone opposes a matai or holy man, they are banished. Someone questions wrongdoings, they are banished, someone has a differing perspective they are banished.

It seems a similar thing has been done to the management of SNPF. They spoke out against someone in power and they are being fed to the lions for being whistleblowers.

Remember that injustice has far-reaching consequences, both for individuals and society. It creates barriers and limits opportunities for marginalised groups, perpetuating cycles of poverty, discrimination, and exclusion.

By The Editorial Board 22 March 2024, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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