Winning the battle but not the war

Respect has always reigned supreme as ultimate testament to our way of life. Our national pride has always been premised on how we honour our families and each other.

But that very fabric, that holds us close, seems to be torn to pieces. 

We now have decisions being made at the national level that have left Samoan citizens scratching their heads in bewilderment and anger. The disrespect for the Samoan people is clear – they know better, and even election results are negotiable.

And now we’re beginning to see the aftermath of our government’s disrespect, with examples of open dissent against their decisions. 

Decisions such as the 11th hour election of a sixth woman Member of Parliament when the nation was on the cusp of having a party majority to form a new Government. 

Decisions such as the voiding of our April 9 General Elections and declaration for fresh elections to take place in a matter of weeks. 

All this taking place while a backdrop of legal cases before the Court have not been resolved. 

The result of this level of contempt for the country, which has clearly called for a change in status quo, is a level of disrespect and dissent we have not seen in some time. 

We have a village that has openly aired their opposition to the Head of State, Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II’s declaration.

Salelologa have come out and said they do not support the idea of having another election.

“As much as we don’t agree with the decision to have another election, we can’t do much about it as the declaration has already been made,” said Taotua Ioane Matamua, a high chief of Salelologa. 

“If the plans push through, we will just present Matamua as the winner and M.P. for Faasaleleaga No.1. We have no plans to cast our votes again.

“That is unnecessary and we refuse to head to the polls again.”

Is this the kind of reaction our leaders anticipated or wished for when they decided to pursue this desperate hold for power? 

This kind of disobedient talk was unimaginable a few short years ago. 

You may have talked in hushed tones about your dislike for someone in the highest offices of Government, but you would not openly defy or question the integrity of someone like the Head of State.

When there is no other avenue to express your disapproval or disagreement over issues of national interest, then what else is there? 

This is why a page like OLP became so popular and believed by so many. Because in their eyes, this was the only way to air out the dirty laundry our Government had been hiding for so long.

But what other recourse is there for a nation whose wishes are being ignored? And now, rejected at the most fundamental level of our democracy – the right to choose who they want to lead the country. 

The decision by the Head of State to make void the 9 April general election was the final nail in the coffin of an election plagued with doubt and dirty politics. 

What is very clear now is that the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) does not want to give up the power and influence they have worked hard to attain over the last 40 years, and are in danger of losing over 45 days. 

The refusal by the caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and his party to accept that they have lost the confidence of a huge chunk of our population is disappointing on a deep level. 

We say disappointing because we believe they once had our country’s best interests at heart and they had the trust of the nation. 

But having power for too long can turn men with good hearts, in to tyrants. 

What other ruling party would lose almost half of their seats and still retain their leader?  

For so long, our people have put their trust in Tuilaepa and H.R.P.P., and they have delivered on many of their promises. 

But over the years we have seen bad decisions slip through the cracks and cause shifts in what is good for the country, and move towards what is good for the party and their cronies. 

One of the most glaring examples in recent history is the protection of the Director-General of Health, despite his mishandling of the Measles Epidemic which left almost 100 scars on this nation’s heart.  

When they ignored the nation’s cries for an apology and an inquiry, they showed that there was nothing more important than maintaining the status quo. Even if that meant denying closure to the families who lost loved ones, mostly babies, in the entirely avoidable epidemic. 

The bulldozing through of three bills that have changed the judiciary and bear long reaching effects for every family in Samoa may have triggered the defection of the now-leader of the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, but the disrespect for every citizen started long before then. 

The hubris to expect the same landslide result from 2016, to be repeated in 2021 was met with an astounding call for change from the country. 

Whatever way you look at it, the voters responded by taking away almost half of the H.R.P.P. seats and giving them to F.A.S.T. 

For everything, there is a season. 

There is grace and honour to be found in defeat. Had the H.R.P.P. and their leader accepted the decision outright, and shifted their focus to that of Opposition party for our XVII Parliament, perhaps they could have used that time to reset and develop new blood for the future. 

Perhaps then their sins could have been washed clean, with a 5 year time out. 

Instead, they have refused a most honourable privilege in any battle – a gentlemanly concession.

Even if they win the majority of petitions, or collect a majority of seats in the second general election, it would be a case of winning the battle but not the war. 

Whether F.A.S.T. can deliver what they promise, that is for the country to decide. 

H.R.P.P. clearly believes that F.A.S.T. did not win legitimately, as made evident with their petitions. But does that mean your party has never stepped out of bounds either? 

To win at all costs, even at the expense of our celebrated democracy, is not the kind of wisdom this country needs. 

If the H.R.P.P. is more experienced, then we expect greater respect for customs, traditions, and systems of governance that have served this country well for years.

And the people of this nation could use your help as Opposition. 

Any government that comes in to power, or regains power, will continue to receive the same level of scrutiny from this newspaper. 

The people of Samoa know what they want. Do not assume they are being duped by any other party. 

Because they are not. They are well aware of what goes on during election season. Why? Because they participate in it themselves. 

Can they not decide for themselves who should lead this country? Are you unable to trust this nation to hold others accountable as they have held you and your party up to the light and examined your failures? 

The shame is in the dismantling of our democracy, in order to fulfill your desire to dominate your opponents. 

This leads to loss of respect for you, the rest of the party and Government agencies and officials who are just there to do their jobs. 

And that is why we find ourselves aghast, but not so surprised, at the language and abuse being hurled at our most revered public figure – the Head of State. 

H.R.P.P. may win, but the country will always see them as election thieves, effectively erasing any legacy they may have built up over the last 20 years with Tuilaepa as Prime Minister. 

Now is that a price you are willing to pay?

To lose 40 years of respect and appreciation, just to hold on for another five?

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