Opposition's tone deaf pay complaints

By The Editorial Board 17 October 2021, 10:03PM

The opposition leader, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, is complaining that members of his Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) have not been paid since their entry into the Parliament. 

It was, of course, only one month ago that the H.R.P.P. was allowed into Parliament by order of the Supreme Court. 

Until that point, whether the party’s Members of Parliament even had the right to take the oath of office was a contested issue; a moot point about which certainty was only brought about by a court decision in September.

All of which make the former Prime Minister’s protestations, made last week, seem both tone deaf and premature. 

Pointing to the seven Parliamentary seats that will be contested in by-elections next month, Tuilaepa said the seats were won by members of the H.R.P.P. but those elected M.P.s were also not paid. 

“Up until this day, we have not received any pay,” he said.

“They have not received their pay but they should.”

It is difficult to see the source of Tuilaepa’s outrage but easy to see that party politics and public service have become fused concepts in his worldview. They are in fact quite different concepts. 

For what work should these particular M.P.s, who have run for office representing their political parties but not served a day in the service of the public, be compensated?

The public does not gain from elections; that is a benefit solely for political parties questing for power. 

Nor did the public gain from the post-election legal wrangling that followed these M.P.s’ elections and eventually led to their victories being voided. 

Indeed, these challenges lined lawyers’ pockets.

Many resulted in what the Supreme Court has described as “corrupt arrangements”, whereby challengers who protested that a victorious member-elect had violated the laws of the nation agreed to drop their legal cases in favour of a private agreement, allowing elections to be contested. 

Elections are for parties seeking power. 

It is in Parliament where a politician’s job is done when voters’ views on policy issues are represented.

That is the business of Government and what we pay our elected representatives for. Everything else is a prelude and the responsibility of political parties, not the public.

To further his point the Prime Minister asked a rhetorical question: “Is there anyone who goes to work and does not get paid for it?”

Let’s turn that question on its head. Is there anyone who does not go to work and get paid for it?

Yes, there is and Tuilaepa and his many colleagues were among them during the fiasco that was this nation’s constitutional crisis for the more than 120 days for which we were presided over by a “caretaker Government” that was later found to be unlawful. 

Cabinet Ministers of this Government, including those who had failed to retain their seats and receive the endorsement of their electorates, continued to claim salaries for a period which was later deemed unlawful by the highest court in the land. 

We ask the opposition leader: by his logic, should we seek to reclaim this taxpayers’ money from these former Ministers, who served in a Government later found to have to have been unlawfully instituted?

The Prime Minister’s tone is as flawed as his logic. 

This country’s economy has undergone an unprecedented contraction. For seven consecutive quarters the number of people receiving a pay cheque in Samoa has shrunk. Estimates suggest as many as 4500 people lost their jobs last year.

Well remunerated politicians complaining about a delay in receiving their salaries amid a period of administrative upheaval is not a message that will win sympathy from voters.

It is not dissimilar to complaints made by the H.R.P.P. about the three day protest they mounted on Parliament’s premises and the ordeal of standing outside in the sun.

They made politics sound like a hard day's work. 

By The Editorial Board 17 October 2021, 10:03PM
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