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The COVID-19 “divine cure”. Penalising leaders who abuse parliamentary privilege

It has been six months since local authorities advised that the measles epidemic had been brought under control and the death toll, most of them children from all over Samoa, totalled 83.

A lot of families, who looked on helplessly as a highly infectious disease stole the lives of their bundles of joy, are still in mourning for their loss. The concrete slabs of their graves outside their houses are a stark reminder of a virus’ cruelty.

As a nation we have been picking up the pieces from that four months of chaos and death towards the end of 2019 and early 2020, and vow that a similar public health crisis can and should never be repeated.

The lessons learnt from that recent dark period of our history, put us in good stead to face a similar health crisis close to two months later, as global health authorities warned of the spread of the coronavirus [COVID-19] and proceeded to declare it a pandemic.

Thanks to the Government’s preparedness on the back of a deadly measles epidemic, we were one of the first countries in the world to impose travel restrictions in January, and gradually closed our borders to international travelers.

One other thing we did learn from the measles epidemic is the need for everyone to avoid disseminating misinformation during a public health crisis, which could become a barrier to ensuring our people are continually kept informed and are in a position to get assistance based on factual information.

It explains why the Police arrested an anti-vaccination activist last December for discouraging members of the public from taking their children to a health facility to get vaccinated. A man, who claimed to be in possession of water that could cure the measles, was also forced by the authorities to close his ‘clinic’ at the height of the epidemic as there was no scientific basis behind his claims.

Therefore, to hear the Member of Parliament Palauli West, Afoa Faleulu Mauli, tell the Legislative Assembly that he had the “divine cure” for the coronavirus and his lawyer is formulating its legal process is nothing short of irresponsible.

We take exception to the way he used his parliamentary privilege to market his “divine cure” to the nation and the world, without a second thought for his constituency and the people of Samoa who looked up to him and elected him as their leader.

Truth be told: there is currently no cure for the COVID-19 with the World Health Organisation [W.H.O.] advising on July 6, 2020 of 21 ‘candidate vaccines’ that are currently undergoing clinical trials globally. 

Looking back in retrospect, if there was to be an M.P. that the Parliamentary Privileges Committee should have investigated for allegedly misleading the Parliament, it should have been the M.P. for Palauli West.

As the elected representatives of our people – we expect our leaders to do their research on the matters they wish to raise in the Parliament on behalf of their constituency to ensure their statements correctly represent their views and are not flawed or biased in any way – before they are given the opportunity to take the podium.

Therefore, the interventions in the Parliament by medical doctor-turned-politician and Minister of Women Community and Social Development, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, and the Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers are timely.

“My concern is the statements from the M.P. will mislead people and our efforts to prevent the disease will be pointless,” said Faimalo. 

“The nation is listening and we are not children, we are leaders of this country. We laugh as if it’s a movie and I’m deeply disappointed by this if we allow this while our country is listening to us.”

Faimalo hits the nail on the head: it is indeed a great concern when our leaders think they can flaunt their positions as Members of the Legislative Assembly, and use the podium of Samoa’s Legislature to make outrageous statements, which ultimately become an impediment to the Government’s efforts to prepare our people for a deadly contagion.

At the end of the day, statements made within the precincts of the Legislative Assembly, will fall back on the Speaker and if he wants his legacy as Chair to be remembered for upholding the strict traditions of the Westminster parliamentary system. These would include penalising those leaders who abuse their parliamentary privileges to misinform the people.

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