Leaders' choices and the national interest

By The Editorial Board 16 October 2021, 11:25PM

The District Court last Friday ruled that the Aana Alofi No. 4 M.P. and former Cabinet Minister, Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster be discharged without conviction for driving under the influence.

But not before slapping him with a $2,000 fine with presiding Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papalii also giving Toeolesulusulu a dress down, highlighting how he has contributed to rising D.U.I. cases in Samoa.

His position as an M.P. was also raised with Judge Alalatoa reminding him of his responsibilities as a leader.

“You are expected to uphold yourself with honour and integrity, people place their trust in you,” said Judge Alalatoa.

“You should always put the interests of the people before yourself, you are required to uphold the law, walk the talk…use this wisely.”

Judge Alalatoa is correct: our legislators are held to higher standards in terms of conduct thus people have high expectations of them.

And to the credit of the Aana Alofi No. 4 M.P. he expressed remorse for his conduct after he emerged from the District Court.

“As the judge said, I'm remorseful. I know what I did was wrong and I am apologetic,” he told the Samoa Observer.

“There is a nation and constituents and people and family that depend on me, so yes, I am thankful that the court accepted the discharge without conviction.

“I look forward to doing what I am supposed to do, what I have been elected to do, which is to serve the community and to serve Samoa.”

The D.U.I. proceedings in the District Court over the last 3.5 months also put the spotlight on our leaders and how his or her choice can have long-term ramifications, not only for themselves but also the reputation of the public offices they occupy.

To put this in perspective: catching a taxi home on the evening of Tuesday 1 June 2021, after the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) one-year anniversary celebration, would have saved Toeolesulusulu a lot of trouble. 

So as an M.P. what is your personal choice in terms of how you conduct yourself at home or in the public eye? 

Nonetheless we commend the Aana Alofi No. 4 M.P. for immediately resigning his position as the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment in June after the police charged him with D.U.I. and two lesser traffic offenses.

That decision in itself ensured that the reputation of the Ministry remained intact as the former Minister underwent the full scrutiny of the law.

The precedent has now been set in this new XVII Parliamentary Term on how Cabinet Ministers should conduct themselves after he or she is either charged or come under the scrutiny of law enforcement agencies.

And having witnessed a tumultuous constitutional crisis following the general election in April, which saw members of the Judiciary unjustifiably come under attack from politicians, the threat of the public losing confidence in our democratic institutions continued to hang over the country like dark clouds.

Our leaders play a critical role in restoring public confidence in our democratic institutions following the five-months-running constitutional crisis.

So how can those dark clouds that continue to hang over the country be blown away by the winds of change? Respect for the rule of law and the judicial powers of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. 

We say this while being cognisant of the seven by-elections scheduled for the end of next month, whose results could yet again tip the balance of power in our 51-seat Legislative Assembly and potentially open the country to more political upheaval.

Again, how our leaders see the results and the choices they make thereon, becomes crucial for this nation. 

We pray you make the right choice and use those powers wisely for the good of the people and the nation.

By The Editorial Board 16 October 2021, 11:25PM
Samoa Observer

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