Dear Tuilaepa

Had we only known.

But love, as one of the great poets once observed, is one of the universe’s sacred mysteries. 

In Friday’s Samoa Observer, the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Aiono Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, a man never short on surprise declarations, expressed his affections for this newspaper. (“I love Samoa Observer: P.M. Tuilaepa”). 

It is very rare that anything at all, especially something said by our estimable yet eccentric Prime Minister, causes this newsroom to miss a beat. 

But his profession of love did just that. 

"The thing is, I love [the Samoa] Observer so much," Tuilaepa said. 

"Even though I make harsh comments towards them most of the time, I still love the (Samoa) Observer. 

“They bring and highlight issues happening in the country." 

We can only offer our blushes in return. 

At first, it felt unlikely to hear these words from a man who has spoken much more harshly about this newspaper in the past: from calling us idiots and fools, to suggesting our reporters could lose some weight or that we are uneducated.

But that all seems to be cast in a different light now. As the old saying about courtship goes: treat them mean to keep them keen. Very canny indeed, Prime Minister.

Tuilaepa even went so far as to thank this newspaper for its work in the service of covering Samoa’s democracy.

But here our admirer goes too far - we must cut him short. It is we who must thank him.

Many a time the journalists of this newspaper, in person or in spirit, have commiserated with our colleagues in neighbouring countries such as New Zealand.

Imagine having to cover a country governed by bores such as Helen Clark, John Key or Jacinda Ardern.

These dependable types are downright bores when compared to Tuilaepa, who is just as likely to show up unannounced to stop a rock fight between teenage boys outside a circus as he is to represent Samoa on the floor of the General Assembly. 

By comparison, the task of covering these other dreary characters sounds positively humdrum.  

Imagine the long Parliamentary debates; Ministers appearing before committees to answer about the details of new policies; and even having to read those long, regular and doubtlessly boring reports about Government finances.  

There was, following the election of Donald Trump to the White House a marked boost to the news industry world over.  

The election of a new leader of the free world given to such unpredictable behaviour led to a surge in newspaper subscriptions, so curious were readers about the next move of their new leader.  

That’s all very well for the New York Times. 

But the power of Trump’s aura of mystery was at least limited by his need to conform to the conventions of American democracy - at least until his final days. 

Those hairsplitting procedures that required his party to release proposed legislation to the public and media for scrutiny and the need for the President’s spokesperson to field questions from so many journalists. 

For more than two decades this newspaper has been enjoying the benefits of the Tuilaepa effect.

The tendency of our Prime Minister’s to offer his opinion so freely and in such a colourful way about a range of subjects and his idiosyncratic policy interests dare we say could even put Mr. Trump in the shade, on his day. 

Which is what makes his confession yesterday all the more mysterious.

If we were to write a list of adjectives to describe Tuilaepa Aiono Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi's character ‘bashful’ would be among the last we reach for.  

So it has been an awfully long time for the Prime Minister to have kept his feelings towards us secret.  

But the cat is out of the bag now.  

The question at the forefront of the minds of many readers is whether these feelings are mutual.

Setting aside the issue of the age gap - we have been in business, of course, nearly twice as long as the Prime Minister has occupied the top job - there are other obstacles. As an objective newspaper, we could, of course, never declare our affections for any one politician or party.  

But now that he has made the first move, we do think it is time to dispense with this roundabout, multi-decade courtship and move forward.

It can’t have been easy to make Friday’s confession, Prime Minister. 

But, come now, let’s dispense with such coy behaviour. Neither of us are teenagers any longer.  

Now that you have professed your admiration, perhaps you won’t feel so shy about being in the same room as us when you hold your regular press conferences.

Perhaps you might even write us back? 

Yours ever, 

The Samoa Observer


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