Gatoloaifa’ana and putting the microscope on H.R.P.P.

Former Faasaleleaga No. 2 M.P. and Cabinet Minister Gatoloaifa’ana Amataga Gidlow took to social media on Tuesday to thank her supporters after 15 years in politics.

Her legacy as the Health Minister (2006–2011) included pushing legislation that banned the sale of tobacco to youth, and overseeing a portfolio that for the first time dealt with a global pandemic in the Swine Flu, over a decade before the emergence of the deadly coronavirus.

As a daughter of former Samoan Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana, it would have been difficult trying to step outside her father’s shadow, but she later carved her own path in close to two decades of life as a politician.

Over the years, her father’s role as one of the founders of the H.R.P.P. in 1979 would not have been lost on her, which probably explains her sentiments on how the 42-year-old party had veered from the vision that the party-founders originally had.

In a story published in the Thursday, June 24, 2021 edition of the Samoa Observer (H.R.P.P. must honour forgotten battles: Gatoloai), the former M.P. told supporters through the H.R.P.P. Facebook page of her loss to the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party-endorsed candidate Magele Sekati Fiaui, and lamented how people took the party for granted and forgot the hurdles that it had to overcome over the years to achieve prosperity for the nation.

“Yes this party started in 1978 or 1979 and now more than 40 years [... later …] there have been changes. Like anything in this life, changes come with each generation,” she said on Facebook live. 

“People have forgotten the challenges that were overcome by the party in the past while trailblazing the way for a better Samoa.

“And so up to now, those who are left in the party as well as its supporters lack the determined spirit for the political party that possesses what is best for Samoa.” 

It would have been hard to determine, when she appeared on her party’s Facebook page on Tuesday, whether the subtle criticism was aimed at the party’s current leadership or its young supporters or both.

But the fact that the daughter of one of the party’s founders thinks that the party – 42 years on from its founding – has strayed from the vision and the values of its founders should stop its supporters in their tracks to take time to ponder.

What has changed from the vision and the values that the founders of the H.R.P.P. originally espoused when they formed the party in 1979?

How would the founders of the party have reacted to the current political stalemate perpetrated by the current party leader and caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi?

And would the party’s founders have signed off on the decision by the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II to defer the convening of the Parliament after a general election in breach of the Constitution?

As far as we know the leadership of the H.R.P.P. has changed over time, and its membership have come and gone with the next generation of party faithful waiting on the fringes, but the supreme law of the land in the Constitution remains.

And we make deliberate reference above to the Constitution, due to the incessant assaults on the mother law by successive H.R.P.P. governments over the years, overlooking its significance as the supreme law that continues to define and bind us as a sovereign nation despite numerous challenges.

So is Gatoloaifa’ana indirectly suggesting that the party founded by her father undergo a postmortem following the April 2021 general election? 

We would like to think so if her comments are any indication:

“As I have said before, when something is around for a long time, we tend to forget why it was started,” said Gatoloaifa’ana.

“There must be a way for us to revive that sense of purpose and with so many challenges put before us, each one has been useful for every one of us.”

In saying that the H.R.P.P. has been at the epicentre of Samoa’s development over the last 40-plus years – and giving credit where credit is due – Governments led by the party have done well in building the country and its governance institutions, to become the envy of other nations as a stable and growing developing economy.

However, the events in the last two months that engulfed the country in a constitutional crisis, should compel us to question whether our voters’ tolerance and embracing of a one-party state through successive general elections, is beneficial in the long run for a representative democracy such as ours.

We are not out of the woods yet, in terms of the constitutional crisis that has seen both the H.R.P.P. and the F.A.S.T. go to the Courts, but it does not hurt asking questions after the dust has settled on where we are now and where we want to go from here as a democratic nation.

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