Cool heads, peace vital for nation
Common sense finally prevailed in Savai’i on Thursday when the organisers of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) vehicle convoy protest canceled the event and returned to Upolu.
Popular social media platforms, which live streamed videos of the protest from the big island on Thursday morning, showed how agonisingly close the country came to witnessing confrontation.
Samoa Observer coverage of the party-led protest on the big island showed rocks and boulders strewn on the road with angry residents vowing not to let the protest convoy drive past.
At the scene of one of the blocked roads manned by untitled men, the distinctive sound of gunshots was clearly audible.
Thank God there were cool heads on the ground. The Police, though understrength on the big island, maintained its presence at strategic locations and negotiated with the matai to promote peace.
Opposition in Savai’i to anti-judiciary protest marches led by the H.R.P.P. and its leader Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi has been growing, with a number of villages stepping forward in recent days to voice their disapproval.
So the reaction on Thursday to the opposition party’s protest – which has targeted the Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Sativa Perese and his Judges over the Appellate Court’s decision last month to install the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Government – was unfortunate but not surprising.
Leaders with a heart for this country would have appealed to citizens to maintain peace, tolerance and civility, even as they look their adversaries in the face, knowing fully well that conflict only adds to a nation’s pain and anguish.
This is why we welcome the direct appeal on Thursday to the people of Savai’i by the Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, for them to remain calm and maintain the peace as a H.R.P.P. convoy of vehicles made their way to the big island on Wednesday before the protest on Thursday.
Even the former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, worried at the long-term implications of the protests led by the H.R.P.P. and its leader Tuilaepa felt compelled to release a statement.
Emphasising that “Samoa is a family”, the former Head of State says we should revisit our history and look at how our forefathers used their knowledge and wisdom to solve conflicts in the past.
"You don't want to encourage violence...it has happened before and the results are disastrous,” he said in an interview with the Samoa Observer.
"But it's a handy story (Lauaki) to remind us that there are ways of resolving these things. “We are a family and our interests are the same.
"You can't afford to miss out on all the beautiful potential by getting involved in conflicts and things like that.
"We got involved in fighting that went on for almost a whole hundred years from the 1800s to the 1900s.
“The lesson from that if you go through history is that we lost a lot in many ways.
"For the oldies, it's a handy thing to draw on the wisdom and the history that the older people passed on because that is the basis of their insights and wisdom."
These words of wisdom from the Tama-Aiga should resonate with citizens on the consequences of conflict, and how it can have life-long ramifications for the community and the nation.
But the tragedy behind this story is how the H.R.P.P. leadership and Tuilaepa continue to feed supporters with incorrect information on the powers of the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II.
They continue to wilfully promulgate the false narrative that the Head of State’s powers are beyond the scrutiny of the Supreme Court and claim that the Appellate Court last month illegally removed the H.R.P.P. Government from office.
It is in these times of crisis when leaders such as Tuimaleali’ifano would have stepped forward to also call for tolerance and peace amidst heated political rhetoric that unjustifiably targets the Judiciary?
However, it is the vehemence in the former Prime Minister’s misinformed speeches in recent protest marches that is stocking defiance of the Court's decision, and further pushing party supporters to the precipice of conflict.
But now is not the time for incendiary acts that continue to threaten the fabric of this nation, when the highest Court in the land has adjudicated the matter, and subsequently installed a legitimate Government that has subsequently ushered in the country’s first female Prime Minister.
The region and the world are celebrating the ascension of Samoa’s first female Prime Minister and the second woman head of Government in the region so why can’t we?
It is a time for reconciliation and peacemaking following a tumultuous four months and working together in unity to tackle global challenges, which are already on our doorstep ready to pounce should we fall and not be steadfast.
Let’s reflect on Tui Atua’s words of wisdom on how we are all family and fighting has never been in the national interest.