Trending Stories

Editorial

All

Arrow right grey

Caretaker P.M. should respect impartiality of O.E.C.

Having only recently celebrated Mother’s Day we can only hope that our leaders would have used the long weekend to step back and take stock of all recent political developments.The last three weeks have been embarrassing to say the least and some of the decisions that were made by the Office of the Electoral Commission and the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II following the 9 April general election is now the subject of Supreme Court proceedings.The O.E.C. is one of the parties to the Supreme Court applications filed by the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party. But the fact that the office is now a party to a critically important Supreme Court proceeding – which could very well decide the future of this nation as a democracy – hasn’t stopped caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi from going ahead with plans to replace O.E.C. polling officials who ran last month’s polling with Government Ministries assistant chief executive officers and chief executive officers.Tuilaepa confirmed that the O.E.C. will change the procedure and put in place Government-employed executives as officials for the upcoming election tentatively scheduled for 21 May (C.E.O. election officials “not right”: Fiame) He then rubbished claims of “conflict of interest” in the appointment of chief executive officers and assistant chief executive officers, saying those who were previously in those positions during the 9 April general election didn’t understand the electoral processes and there were “a number of issues” last month which warranted their replacement.It is another example of the caretaker Prime Minister making decisions that could raise questions about the integrity of the whole electoral process. So where is the Electoral Commissioner Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio and why is Tuilaepa making decisions for him?Doesn’t the caretaker Prime Minister care about the independence and impartiality of the O.E.C. and its systems and processes?And why hasn't the senior membership of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) intervened and ask their leader to restrain himself from toying around with constitutional offices that are currently the subject of a court proceeding?It is not surprising political rivals are now asking why the leader of the H.R.P.P. is attempting to restructure an office that is supposed to be independent and impartial.F.A.S.T. party leader Fiame Naomi Mata’afa has expressed concerned about the eleventh-hour restructuring of the O.E.C. by the caretaker Prime Minister on the eve of another general election (though dependent on the ruling of the Supreme Court). “This is all based on what Tuilaepa is demanding. And it is not right,” said Fiame in an interview with the Samoa Observer. “The election process is governed by law and it is a clear [conflict of interest] given the polling stations will be manned by Government officials which of course [are] under the H.R.P.P.; what does that say."We are surprised that it hasn’t dawn on the caretaker Prime Minister that his decisions of late in relation to the operations of the O.E.C. is a blatant attempt to usurp the powers of the Electoral Commissioner.And the ordinary people have had enough of all the confusion that the caretaker Government has made following the 9 April general election – through the decisions of the O.E.C. officials as well as the Head of State – through the addition of a woman candidate as a Member-elect and the revoking of the election last month which are all now being questioned in court.Talk to random people in the community and they will tell you how they found the Head of State’s declaration of defeated H.R.P.P. candidate Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau – as Samoa’s sixth women Member-elect – at 9.34pm on Tuesday 20 April through the O.E.C. Facebook page so unusual due to its timing and brazenness that they joke at how the ruling party tried to steal the election at night.So what is wrong about respecting the rule of law and allowing the process to take its course at the Supreme Court to decide on a pathway forward?Everyone wants a resolution to this political impasse, which has become a full blown constitutional crisis over the last three weeks, due to the decisions of certain individuals.Our democracy continues to evolve and it is obvious that some of the country’s 58-year-old pillars need revisiting, in order to ensure Samoa’s Constitution in future is able to cater for and provide resolution for a myriad of challenges, including political party deadlocks that could arise following general elections.But for now the caretaker Prime Minister owes it to the people of this nation to step back and avoid actions, which could be seen as impinging on the independence and impartiality of the O.E.C. and await the outcome of the Supreme Court proceedings.

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

Politics, unending politics

To invert an old phrase made famous by America’s accidental Vice-President Gerald Ford, our long national nightmare is far from over.The nation is this week focused on an ongoing challenge to the constitutionality of a Government decision, one that could immediately deliver a Government majority or a stalemate on the floor of the Parliament. But we shouldn’t be lulled into a sense of finality that might usually come with a Supreme Court decision on a constitutional issue of this magnitude. A decision on whether the Office of the Electoral Commissioner, advised by the Attorney General, was right to seek a warrant to add an additional seat to Parliament will indeed have short-term ramifications. But looming in the background are two scenarios that seem more than likely to only prolong our sense of political uncertainty, long after that case is settled. Namely, they are fresh elections or a Parliament whose coalitions could be readjusted as a result of electoral petitions and subsequent by-elections.Though different in their effect they are both ideas nourished from the same root: wielding a broom through the results of the previous election to greater or lesser degrees. The reality is that we are looking into a future unknown.As senior lawyer Fiona Ey recently told this newspaper, the nation’s founding legal document was obviously not drafted with close elections in mind. “We have no clear answer about what we do in this case,” she said last week about the country’s current stalemate.The country’s Parliament is indeed obliged to convene within the next month, or the prescribed 45 days after the election. But it is not obliged to produce a Government. In such situations other parliamentary democracies have clear mechanisms to force people back to the polls to reconfigure the Legislative Assembly.But not Samoa. Conceivably 26 members could line up on either side of the chamber, exchange pleasantries and, despite being unable to form Government, come to no clear resolution.Fiame Naomi Mataafa was very quick out of the gates to suggest that the country should proceed quickly to convening Parliament before allowing electoral petitions to influence results as they may. Of course, the leader of the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party has the most gain and the last to lose from such a scenario. Should the court find in favour of the electoral petition that F.A.S.T. has currently mounted against the expansion of Parliament, she will be sitting on the slimmest of Parliamentary majorities. It could even give her a chance to steal a march on the political process And should she lose, the deadlock remains.The leader of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.), the caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has said he favours fresh elections.“There is no other way [to break the deadlock] but to ask the Head of State to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections,” he said. But just as Fiame’s actions are the product of political self-interest nor can the H.R.P.P. leader’s statement be taken at face value either. There is indeed another route to electoral resolution. So far no electoral petitions - or challenges to the official results of seats - have been filed.But as the Samoa Observer revealed, a total of nine electoral petitions were being prepared and compiled by several unsuccessful election candidates and their legal teams. We are not likely to know who is filing petitions and on what grounds until Friday - the deadline by which the legal challenges (“Five elected M.Ps safe from petitions”). But both parties are more than likely to be involved. The candidate who bested the independent who was for one hot minute this election’s putative kingmaker, Le-Ati-Laufou Alofipo F. Manase was actively considering a challenge. But  Le-Ati-Laufou said the decision on whether he was to challenge Tuala Iosefo Ponifasior for the seat of Gagaemauga No.1. was only to be met after the candidate met personally with Tuilaepa. Putative images, videos and rumours are running hot on social media purporting to show candidates having breached provisions against treating and bribery. What kind of evidence either party has accumulated on the other’s candidates and is holding in secret could prove legally explosive.When asked if he was prepared for electoral petitions the deputy leader of F.A.S.T. Laauli Leuatea Polataivao told the Samoa Observer he was both unconcerned and prepared. “It doesn’t matter, we will also counter. We are prepared to counter anyone that comes across to our numbers, we will be prepared for that," he said. “It doesn’t worry me. We’ll see them in court.”The Supreme Court has apparently given itself two months to hear these petitions. But of course, such a timeline will be subject to the number and intricacies of the cases involved.And if there are decisive outcomes to these cases, the by-elections on which they rest will take months out from here to stage and decide. In 2011, it took nearly five months for by-election results to transpire after a general election.As we hang on the results of a case before the courts, we could well be settling in for months in which only one thing will rule Samoa: uncertainty. 

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

Election result confirms pitfalls of ‘absolute power’

The results of the 9 April General Election, which announced the entry of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) into Samoa’s political landscape at the expense of the Human Rights Protection Party, has been etched into Samoan folklore.The nine-month-old party’s victory, which saw it amass 25 constituency seats to tie with the incumbent H.R.P.P. after the release of the official results, bucked the trend of previous general elections to surprise everyone.The results would have shocked H.R.P.P. leader and caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, who only 15 days prior to the general election, predicted his party would return to government with a landslide victory in 45 constituency seats.A lot has happened since then with the Office of the Electoral Commission invoking constitutional provisions relating to the women M.P. quota, to increase the numbers of the H.R.P.P. and sole Independent Member-elect Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio joining the F.A.S.T. party to see both major political parties, again, tied on 26. The decision of the O.E.C. to invoke Article 44(1A) of the Constitution to declare defeated H.R.P.P. candidate Ali'imalemanu Alofa Tu'uau the sixth women Member-elect, is now the subject of a Supreme Court proceeding mounted by the F.A.S.T. party, which begins its hearing next Wednesday.Amidst these looming court battles, including election petitions which should be filed in the Supreme Court by close of business on Friday, conversations have already begun on the factors that contributed to the H.R.P.P. suffering its heaviest election defeat since its founding in 1979.For Nanai Dr Iati Iati, a senior lecturer in the Victoria University of Wellington’s School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations, he couldn’t look past the last Parliament’s passage of the Land and Titles Court Bills last December which restructured the judiciary.The L.T.C. Bills were widely condemned locally and internationally, but Tuilaepa used his party’s dominance in the 51-seat Legislative Assembly to bulldoze through the suite of legislation with 41 H.R.P.P. Members voting for the bills. Only four Members voted against the legislation at that time: former Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, Olo Afoa Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Leatinuu Wayne Fong.Four months later Fiame, who was elevated to the position of F.A.S.T. leader together with party colleagues La’auli (deputy party leader), Olo and Faumuina are basking in the overnight success of their party at the polls.The quartet, whose performance as F.A.S.T. party members bore the brunt of criticism led by Tuilaepa in the last Parliament, could be on the cusp of forming a new government depending on the outcome of the Supreme Court proceeding or election petitions if any.It is funny how political fortunes can change overnight. So the Victoria University academic, who is also a matai from Falelatai, could be on the money on this one.In a story (Land and Titles Court laws dawn of deadlock: expert) published in the Thursday April 29, 2021 edition of the Samoa Observer, Nanai picked customary land rights, the matai, and the aiga (family) as the three pillars of Samoans’ universe which the H.R.P.P. promoted L.T.C. Acts desecrated."Anyone who knows anything about Samoan politics knows that there are three things you don't interfere with: customary land rights, the matai, and the aiga (family). "Those are the things you just don't touch and you do so at your peril and if you were to interfere with those three things, you better get their support, because it will go badly for anyone who touches or interferes with these things. "And I'm not gonna say that those three bills did what the opposition claimed will do to the matai of the aiga, I think that still needs to be resolved and still got some debates about that. "But I think where the H.R.P.P. fell down was there was no communication of what the impact of those bills are going to be.”Looking back in retrospect – everything that needed to be said about the L.T.C. Bills prior to their enactment and their impact on the rule of law in Samoa and the wider implications for citizens’ human rights – had been said.The caretaker Prime Minister and his Government over the course of 2020 refused point blank pleas from Samoa’s Supreme Court Judges, the Samoa Law Society, eminent international jurists including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.Today a leading Samoan political scientist has attributed the loss of the H.R.P.P. to the last Parliament’s passage of the three L.T.C. Bills: Land and Titles Court Bill 2020, the Judicature Bill 2020, and the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020.And Nanai is correct: the H.R.P.P. has paid the price for refusing to listen to the people and the position of the electorate is reflected in the number of voters who now see the Fiame-led F.A.S.T. party as the alternative government. The H.R.P.P. leadership took the people for granted and their position on the L.T.C. Bills in the lead-up to and after their enactment was dictatorial to say the least. Their defense of the widely criticised laws gave life to a famous phrase coined by British historian and politician Lord Acton, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”So what now for Samoa’s once-dominant political party which scaled the heights of Samoan politics and pushed its weight for four decades?Political parties that review their success and failures in the aftermath of a general election, and revisit the original intent of the manifesto that the parties’ founders used to create the party, are bound to go places.But those that work behind-the-scenes to identify flaws in the system in a bid to hijack a democratic process won’t get far, and be left to slowly wither, unable to move with the changing times.

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

An election free of corruption is the responsibility of every citizen

The deadline to file election petitions has come and gone.While some elected members of Parliament may finally be able to give themselves a moment to relax, knowing they have moved one step closer to being sworn-in as a legislator for the next five years; it’s only just sinking in for others that they may actually lose their seats.The two parties, Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi and Human Rights Protection Party, have been vocal in recent weeks (while mulling over their equal share of Parliamentary seats) with their plans to challenge the election results; and with ensuing developments relating to a hung parliament, independent members, Constitutional amendments and an additional member – it does not come as a surprise to find out that there are 28 petitions filed in total.The acrimony between the two major parties has been committed to public record for several weeks, and months now.This has provided rich fodder for speculation at every level of our community – from the power brokers on their pulpits, to our disaffected Diaspora seeking inclusion and not forgetting the international media watching with great interest, how a small island nation – the first in the Pacific to gain Independence from colonial powers – handles the toughest challenge so far to its respected democracy.This seemingly long walk to forming our next Government has its pros and cons.As Nanai Dr Iati Iati says in today’s front page story, “Vibrant democracy in Samoa: political expert” – we do have the system in place to reflect what the people of Samoa want. We do have a vibrant democracy and it is currently working overtime.The fact that the battle has moved to the Supreme Court – to consider the differing interpretations to statutory law - is not something we should to be ashamed of. Why? Because we are seeing all facets of our democracy come in to play.We held our elections for representatives in the Legislative Assembly and we’re now moving to the Judiciary, putting our trust in the Supreme Court to do their part to interpret the law and pass judgment.But Election petitions are another ball game altogether. They have been part of our electoral process for some time; Samoa’s unique style of governance makes it necessary.Consider that we have a western style of governance at the national level while customary rule still takes precedence at the village level.For decades now, Samoa has been struggling to find a working hybrid of these two styles of governance. The culmination of which always ends up in the court of law – think of individual rights versus that of the village councils.  This year is no different, albeit on a grander scale as the Constitution (or rather its interpretation) is currently under scrutiny.It would be fair to say that election petitions are almost always in relation to bribery or treating. This has kept our court system busy for several elections, as they sift through testimony and evidence, trying to identify that boundary that separates culture and tradition from unlawful behavior.Samoa’s culture is a series of protocols guided by respect. Some might say the offer of a meal to a visitor, or gift of money to a host is part and parcel of those protocols. The lines become so much blurrier when it’s in the context of election season.So why can’t we allow our cultural protocols, of which we are so proud and celebrated, to supersede introduced concepts of western governance?Well, because the law says it causes unfair advantage and undue influence over voters. This is reasonable and logical. The law has also established specific time periods where cultural protocols are allowed, in relation to politics and elections. There are heavy penalties for breaking the electoral laws.So how do we fight election corruption?We need to instill more value in a vote than it currently carries. It’s obvious that we can’t just put out laws and hope for the best.Perhaps when we begin to see our votes as having the same value as our land and titles, our measina, then we may do away with the need for election petitions.Then we may get to a point where an election result is accepted as the true will of the people; without conspiracy theories, wild accusations and cowboy-style electioneering that does nothing to help Samoa grow and prosper.Perhaps then we won’t see a person’s vote so callously traded for money, food, drink or favours.Those who exploit the basic impulses of voters, by offering money or food or favours, do so with the absolute full knowledge that what they are doing is illegal.And those who dangle their vote in front of candidates, looking for the best offer in exchange for their tick, are just as much to blame for the cycle of election corruption.Everyone wants a free and fair election. It is what we deserve and what we should demand. But to make that happen, it has to be the responsibility of every citizen.Yes we have seen a huge divergence in the preference for political parties, but the shift from one ruling party to another does not negate the existence of election corruption.Watch the pages of our newspaper over the coming weeks as the election petitions reveal what goes on behind the scenes.

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

Street Talk

All

Arrow right grey

What are you doing to prepare for Mother's Day?

Vaavaai Peniueta, 54, Saleapaga"I am living with my three children and my husband and I know that we don't have a celebration for Mother's Day because we have a lot of church stuff that needs to be paid. I don't know about other mothers but I don't need anything. Having my family together and living a healthy lifestyle is more than enough for Mother's Day. I am here to sell my products in order to get money for our church and my children's school fee."Jeddah Fa'asoesa, 33, Satapuala"As we're looking forward for Mother's Day it is also my mother's birthday on Sunday. I am out here selling plants to get money to buy my dearest mother a white dress to wear to church on Sunday and look beautiful."Pepe Tofilau, 70, Lotopa"I am the only mother in my household and selling plants is my preparation for Mother's Day. Getting my plants to sell out and to grow more plants. Yes, that's it for my preparation for Mother's day - to stick to planting and I thought of buying me a new dress."Mafi Taufaasala, 50, Vailele"Throughout this whole week, I have spoiled my wife to sit and relax while I do every chore at home since it's Mother's day this coming Sunday. If she comes back home from work, I serve her a meal.  For Sunday, we will have a to'ana'i of just my wife, children and I. I best believe that mothers give life to children and I am grateful for my wife." Puleitu Faavaoga, 36, Faleula"We are preparing all sorts of food for our toana'i on Sunday and I'll also buy my mother a white dress to wear to church. My mother and other mothers in our village are preparing for their items at church for Sunday and we fully support her. I am selling my goods in order to get money to buy ice cream and to put more food on the table for Mother's Day."Semi Sioka, 19, Faleasiu"Our family's preparation for Mother's Day is to prepare a umu and to all go to church to give thanks that our mother has made it this far in life. I have no gift for my mother on Mother's Day but I believe that every mothers wants obedience from their children and I am doing it for my mother. Not just for Mother's day but everyday is a must."

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

Public happy to vote again to determine Government

Talifa Taumalepulufaga, 50, Leauvaa"Yes I will vote in another general election because the recent election we had was something else. I believe that by voting again the country will then be able to have a government formed." Fata F Faosiliva, 54, Afega"Yes I will vote again if there's another election in order to know which party will win. But another election will also cost people money to pay for transportation, like people who are living here in Upolu and have to travel to Savai'i in order to cast their vote. They have to pay for bus fair and ferry tickets, it may seem easy to vote again during another election but there are also obstacles."Kalotoa Iosefa, 66, Fusi Safata"I will vote if there is another general election to ensure that our country will be able have a government formed. In fact there should be another general election to determine which party the voters want to govern our country."Vitoria Nansen, 55, Leauvaa"If only the 2021 General Election was held with honesty there will not be any need to hold another election. I am disappointed with the recent general election and I will not vote again if another election is held."Rosana Manusina, 37, Toamua"I will vote again if there's another general election, I hope that after the second election Samoa will officially have a government. It is taking too long for the results of the winning party to be decided so another election is probably the best option in order for a government to be formed."Matile Mulipola, 42, Moamoa"I am happy to vote if there will be another election because there hasn’t been a winning party. I thought that a new party is going to govern our country but it's taking too long to get results. It is useful to have another election to know which party won the general election, but I'm looking forward to another election if there's one. But I don't want Tuilaepa and his party to win again, he did a lot of changes with our electoral processes." 

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

Rising cost of living hurts public

Savelio Mareko, 35, Nuu fou"These recent times has seen a lot of changes, in the last 10 years the cost of living has increased tremendously as well as the minimum wage for the working class. But for tradesmen and craftsmen here in the market especially during the lockdown, the struggles have been hard and some of us don’t have proper paying jobs so we really have to make an effort to push for sales. I feel like the only people who are getting benefits are the elderly, you don’t hear about benefits for students or children or middle-aged individuals. Things are expensive but for me as long as I work hard it’s not that bad."Maseiva Time, 49, Lauli’I"Today everything is expensive and everything you want cost money. During my time if you wanted something things were simpler, you could just go and fetch food (fish or hunt) or drink water or do whatever and it wouldn’t cost a thing. Today's day and age things is very costly, this is why we have vendors and children selling things like pulu kaele (body scrubs) and vili kaliga (earbuds) and why? Well because the cost of living is expensive and not everyone can afford it. Our water bills have increased so much, electricity bills are high, things are just too much even the supermarkets are expensive."Asenati Li’o, 54, Siusega"I think it's the virus that has increased the cost of living, but I don’t think it's that bad as we still have food. We still can plant and harvest our food and what you sell will in turn pay you back with profit, although at this point things are slow as Samoa is poor. But as long as you get something, whether it be in small amounts or not, at least you can be grateful for that. It's not like other countries where people are still hungry and have no food. We have much to be grateful towards, we have homes, we have our own land and we have hands to get what we want. We don’t just plant food, we plant money." Tupu Ah Ching, 30, Vaitele Uta"Life is very expensive in Samoa.I'm not entirely sure if it's because of the previous government that we had just recently. Yes I agree it is expensive and for example my water bill is skyrocketing and it's getting really expensive as we move forward in life. Goods are not cheap anymore, everything is money nowadays. You sit you need money, you shower you need money and even food you need money, especially at this time of the pandemic it's making it even worse. Back when tourists were around I would almost make 1K compared to now with borders closed I just get less than $10 a day."Sineva Tulau, 39 years old ,Toamua"Personally as a business owner, sometimes it's actually expensive and I know that there’s always money out there. There’s money if you start looking and if you work hard for money then you will eat. Check your land, more often people don't know that there are crops and resources growing in their own backyards, where they can make their own handicrafts and sell them. Like Fasa plants where you can make ula fala. There’s a lot of things out there, it’s just the perseverance not to be poor that differentiates you from the rest."Siufaga Sua, 61, Tiavea"I don’t think much has changed, I think things are simpler now, we can get what we can and what we want. I think that if you don’t work hard and if you’re over dependent you obviously won’t have much to be grateful for because your hands aren’t dirty and therefore you won’t be appreciative."

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

Public shocked, surprised over fresh elections

Palaealii Tavita Tuumaali, 38, Vaoala“It’s good that we have another election, I support the idea of a re-election so that we can really see where we are at, because in my opinion a lot of people were in favor of HRPP up until there were a few slight changes at the end of the election. What I think now is yes we should have a re-election and see where it actually leads us, I used to be in favor of HRPP but now I’m not so sure anymore so I want to vote again and see where it actually goes. I was happy with the previous results, but now that I’m not sure with what had happened, I trust that people may change their minds…now there will be more people in favor of changing the government I suppose.”Rasela Puala, 66, Satapuala“We were convinced that this country was founded and dependent on God, but now I'm not quite sure if this was his plan as it seems that it could be far from what it should be. What we expected was when the independent chose a party that party would have won, that’s it. I think the reason why people are now skeptical is because HRPP added another female candidate from nowhere to all of a sudden make up the percentage of women representatives in Parliament. What I do believe is that this country is distinct because we were founded on God, and this Government isn’t doing what we’re founded on, they’re just doing whatever they want to do. So I expected FAST to win because the Independent MP joined. I think that it’s not right too that the decision to add the female MP was done at night, I do not understand that."Blessing Peapea, 50, Nuu Fou"Well I’m in God's favor and I do not believe in either party. Yet right now, things are just going into turmoil and things were not done accordingly."Apoua Papalii, 59, Apia"The decision depends on the country, we shall let them do whatever they want, but we can pray that this election and the previous one will be put in God’s hands. We shall let them be, whether they want to keep voting and voting that’s up to them. But for us I think that we can just pray and have faith that the almighty judge above will choose what is best for us, the outcome for us will be in God's favor. People are split both ways into those two parties, but what the Head of State could have done was not to listen to either party but to his own intuition because he is the Head of State. He shouldn’t be biased with his decisions, neither should he listen to what is being told to him about what should could or would happen, but to listen to what God would say."Ioane Vito, 56, Lalovaea"In my opinion it has come a point where things are just not good at the moment as so many things have changed. I am not sure what's happening now, whether we do another election or not, whether it be agreed upon or not, I just don’t think there's should be another election."Fata Taalefili, 50, Afega"I have a concern to raise and that is why is it that they did this (add another woman Member) at night? Everyone was sleeping when that happened. Shouldn’t they (Office of Electoral Commission and the Head of State) have gathered respectfully for the signing of this document? I just don’t understand that decision and why it had to happen the way it did."

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

Letter to Editor

All

Arrow right grey

Samoa, aid from China and colonialism

I read with interest the Letter to the Editor from from Afamasaga F. Toleafoa addressing China and Developments at Mulifanua. The letter was replying to earlier correspondence from a Mr Kevin Hart which I’ve not seen. It is sad to see an educated Samoan trot out old bogeymen in his quest for Aid hand outs. Yes, Samoa did suffer colonialism. But surely with independence already 60 years in the past, Samoans have grown up.  I would have thought “growing up” means aid money is a thing of the past. Mr. Toleafoa expresses a distaste for regional Pacific governments and their hypocrisy in regard to trading with mainland China. Mr. Toleafoa is surely 100% correct in his views on this. I would be hard pressed myself to find a more unpalatable politician than the current Australian prime minister - and his predecessors. I would ask however, that before he would commit Samoa to an alliance with the Chinese Communist Party he do some research into the loss of political autonomy in Australia that has come about with the rush to market and profit in mainland China. I suggest he start with surveying the citizenry of Tibet and Xinjiang. How do Tibetans and Uighurs feel they are doing under the Chinese Communist Party’s dictatorship? I suggest that he visit Cambodia and see for himself the corruption entailed in taking hand-outs from a police state. I suggest he discuss with other Pacific country leaders what they think of the Chinese Communist Party’s preparations for war – with especial reference to the militarisation by desecration of reefs in the South China Sea.  I note on this point, that the Communist Party of China spurned the International Court’s rulings. As part of this research, I suggest that Mr. Toleafoa also visit Taiwan. Recently Taiwan has shown it is open for business. I’m not sure how open Mme President Tsai Ying-wen and her Government are in term of approaches for aid money; but at least in Taiwan you can find a free press, freedom of association, freedom of speech; you can find free and fair elections, rule of law and transparency. Levels of corruption are probably (by Chinese Communist Party standards) almost non-existent in Taiwan. No survey on such an important question could be complete without meeting and seeking the views of jailed professionals who have dared to champion human rights. I am thinking of Mrs. Wang Yu of Beijing; Mr. Li Wenzu; the list is a long one. As in ages past, the jails of China are full of the tortured and illegally detained. I urge Mr. Toleafoa to think hard about his preferences for international relations – and his own motivations for these preferences.Yours sincerely, Robert Travers

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

China and developments at Mulifanua

Kevin Hart’s letter of 03 September complained about the Chinese being a likely buyer of Government’s shareholding in the Sheraton Samoa Resort at Mulifanua. Which raises the question; what is wrong with Chinese investors getting involved in tourism development in Samoa anyway especially when there isn’t much interest from elsewhere? Virtually every other country in the Pacific and the world including the US and Australia, China’s foremost critics have been enjoying the benefits of Chinese trade, investment, and tourism. So why not Samoa?Whether people like it or not, China will be a major player in the region, and it will only get worse with time for those who wish it otherwise. And in any case, one can’t do business with China as China’s critics do, and then seek to deny the Pacific Islands the same privilege by engaging in fearmongering about China’s intentions.  Samoa’s deputy prime minister called this bahaviour recently, patronizing and offensive. It is also dishonest. One would have thought that with colonialism still fresh in people’s minds, China’s detractors might have tried some more subtle way to make their case about China being a threat to Island nations. After all, these are nations that have only recently won back their own sovereignty from countries that are accusing China, a victim of colonialism itself, of malevolent intent in the Pacific.  Samoa’s prime minister made the point at the Pacific Island Forum that China is not an enemy of Samoa, which adheres to a “friend to all and enemy to none” approach to old and new comers alike to the region. The Pacific islands have legitimate economic needs and environmental interests that the former colonial powers in the Pacific have been unable to meet or in some cases totally ignored. Over the years, the Pacific Island nations have even been blamed for supposedly lagging in economic growth behind other parts of the world that receive similar levels of aid. But more recent work on the subject has confirmed what the Pacific Islands have known all along. And that is when you are small, highly fragmented and horribly isolated, your costs of attempting any form of economic activity are always going to be high no matter what you do.  China’s willingness and ability to help bridge this aid gap is welcomed therefore. It also helps that China has a different approach in its relations with the tiny and insignificant Pacific Island states and peoples. And it happens it’s an approach that the Pacific peoples themselves understand all too well and appreciate. Its an approach that recognizes the inherent dignity of peoples irrespective of colour, money and level of development. The result is that in spite of the fear mongering about China’s supposedly hidden agenda even in the face of evidence to the contrary, the Pacific Islands have seen no reason to believe this crude and offensive propaganda.  There appears to have been a notable increase lately in the number of visits by navy vessels and personnel from the US and Australia doing the usual public relations soft sell with various groups including school children. The visit on board these war machines and the helicopter rides for the children will have been the thrill of a lifetime for many. One suspects that we will be seeing more of these as the West sets out to contain the rise of Chinese influence in the region. The visits bring back to mind the colonial days of gun boat diplomacy in the Pacific when control of native populations was exercised mainly through the firepower of visiting warships when turned on native communities that failed to toe the line   Samoa’s prime minister is reported to have said recently in relation to the stepped-up competition that Samoa’s main interest and focus of diplomacy is to raise standards of living and provide for its people’s needs. In the circumstances, public relations and making friends with young people will only go so far in winning influence especially in the face of China’s hard cash. Airy catch phrases such as Step Up, (Australia), Pacific Uplift, (UK), something about Family? (US), can easily backfire. A meeting between Chinese leaders and Pacific Island leaders being hosted by Samoa in October this year should be quite an event especially at this time. It will most likely see among other things the unveiling of some new aid and trade initiative by China.   And as for Chinese interests possibly helping to bring more air services to Samoa, that too would be a welcome relief from the monopolistic practices of Air New Zealand, Virgin Airways and Fiji Airways, the three carriers that operate services in Samoa today. After being badly burnt in yet another one-sided partnership with an Australian carrier, the Samoan government did the right thing for Samoa in starting up Samoa Airways in spite of the risks and poor timing. When Polynesian Airlines started international services to New Zealand in the late 1970s, it did so mainly on the strength of Samoa’s own ethnic traffic between the two countries. The airline did well even then, until gross mismanagement grounded it with heavy losses. In spite of its inauspicious beginnings, Samoa Airways if properly managed and run, (by professionals preferably), has every chance of being the catalyst for Samoa to have the airline services it so badly needs. But it is helpful as government embarks on this to be reminded that we have been down this very road before. The lessons of history are there and must be learnt and heeded, if their repetition is to be avoided. Incidentally, as for a possible flooding of the To-Sua with tourists from China if direct charter flights were to start between China and Samoa, I have a suggestion. Make the climb down to the water even more challenging than it is now. That should encourage only the young and the brave to take the plunge. Afamasaga F ToleafoaLetava

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

Ten years on: Tsunami reflections from a health worker

I had just finished morning devotion when the earthquake happened. I sat there and listened to the neighbours’ dogs barking and the dishes falling off shelves. After the earthquake, I got ready to go to work as usual. I was told that all the taxis were being advised not to go into town area, and it took almost an hour for my taxi to arrive. How insignificant it seems now, but I remember feeling annoyed and impatient with the driver for driving so slow, I did not want to be late for work! The driver was the first person who told me that a tsunami had hit Lalomanu and that people died. I remember thinking “That’s ridiculous, we don’t get tsunamis, and people need to stop spreading these fake news!” When I got to the lab, someone confirmed the driver’s story and told us to be prepared because they were bringing in bodies from Poutasi. That first hour at the lab is a bit of a blur, but I remember the hospital chapel vividly, the sounds of lamentations, the smells and the faces of the living and the deceased.  I was one of the laboratory staff that assisted Dr. Sonal, Dr. Rahman and our then mortician Ene Reupena in the Hospital Chapel. We were asked to document the injuries on the deceased bodies.  The first four bodies had already arrived when I got there. They were labelled 1 to 4 because we did not know their identities at the time. Peone was writing out more numbers in anticipation of more bodies. She had written up to “14”, and I remember asking her “Are we gonna need that many numbers?”. I found out soon enough. When the numbers reached 18, I thought surely there can’t be more! But the cars kept coming. I remember the workers standing there transfixed by the reversing cars, for those few seconds we all watched. If they reversed towards the emergency entrance, that means the person is alive and needs medical attention, but if they reversed towards the chapel entrance, then that meant we needed a new number for the new body. Part of the job delegated to us was to find relatives to identify the bodies. Once someone identified the deceased, we would write their names next to the assigned number. I was ok with the dead, it was the ashen look of shock and hopelessness on the faces of the living relatives that broke me. I tried my best to comfort the family members, but one man identified his brother-in-law, turned to the bodies next to him and identified his mother, and then his son. I could not help the tears, it was just too heart-breaking, I did not know what to say, so I hugged him and we cried together. The second time I cried was when they brought in a baby, about 6-8months old, I carried her while they tried to make space to put her.  She looked so peaceful and so beautiful with her white stud earrings. I remember the gruesome injuries on some of the bodies, the things people should only see in movies and TV series. Some of the bodies came wrapped in the same floral material. We were later told that they were window curtains of the Poutasi/Lalomanu hospital. I know it sounds undignified, but that was the disturbing reality of that day; they used whatever they had at the moment to wrap the bodies. I remember the two kids that were dressed in their white Sunday clothes. The relatives told me they wanted them to wear their White Sunday clothes since they already bought it! I kept trying to reach my Mom at Faleasiu, but the phone network was understandably overwhelmed that day. Our family house at Faleasiu is right on the ocean. When they told me that more than one wave had hit, I thought it possible that another could come any minute now and hit the other side of the island. After all, a tsunami had just happened in Samoa, and the bodies of the deceased were being brought in on the back of trucks. Anything was possible in the worst possible sense! I’d be lying if I said my faith never wavered that day. Amongst so many emotions, I also felt fear. I remember the fear of not knowing if my mom was safe. I feared that one of the bodies they brought in would be my mom or a relative. My uncle was the faifeau at the Lalomanu EFKS at the time. But they were lucky, I was lucky. I was spared the ordeal of having to identify a loved one. But the others… I could only look on and pray that God give them comfort and peace. I remember Moeumu Uili, the father of the beautiful baby, the wailing mothers, the weeping men, and all the while in the background, the constant beeping sounds of the reversing cars bringing in more bodies. These are sounds you don’t just forget.  It was amazing how everyone functioned, I think everyone was just on autopilot, not fully registering the magnitude of the situation. We all kept a brave face for each other. I remember being told to move the bodies closer together to make space for more. Eventually, the whole chapel was covered with the bodies of the deceased, and the hospital had to bring in freezer containers to store the other bodies. Most of us only stopped to rest in the evening, when most of the victims’ bodies had been documented and processed.I do not have any photos of that day. I remember we took a photo in the chapel, but it felt irreverent to those lying there, so I promptly deleted that. I remember a very nice photo of Ene (RIP) carrying a child, I think it was taken by NZ reporters. As you may know, some of the bodies were only discovered much later in the week. Dr Rahman (RIP) allowed me to accompany him on one of his visits to the mortuary to examine those bodies. Seeing is not always believing. I saw the mangled bodies, the bloated bodies, the dismembered bodies, but it was still hard to believe that all this had happened in Samoa! Anyone who was there and worked at the hospital will remember the smell that lingered for days in the hospital grounds.   Upstairs in the pathology lab, that song kept playing, I don’t remember the name of the song but ever since then, I refer to it as the “Tsunami song by Johnny”. It always makes me think of that fateful day. The laboratory staff were overwhelmed with not just performing tests for the injured, but seeing to so many volunteers who came to donate blood. Other people came with food, and they kept coming even after midnight. Amongst the pain and devastation, there was so much goodness too. I am always grateful for the Samoans’ sense of humour. Throughout that week, some lab members made it their mission to scare everyone with ghost stories, wet footprints with strategically placed blood drops along the corridors, running tap water late at night, looking in from the outside and whispering the names of the lab people inside.  I admit I was one of those pranksters that preyed on the “makafefes”, it was after all, free and much needed comedy! I also learnt that some of the boys are really just big soft teddy bears who are afraid of the dark! I was gant blivit. I’m always amazed at the resilience of the Samoan people. Usually in the western world, people who are affected by such events often need to have therapy sessions. Not us. The staff tearoom served as our therapist’s couch. I remember that night after the tsunami, we just sat there and listened to the tsunami song, not really talking. As the week progressed, people started opening up about their emotions and how they felt. It took me weeks to be able to talk about the tsunami and what happened in the chapel without tearing up. Some of our staff would tear up whenever they heard the tsunami song, even weeks later. Even now, there is always a catch in my voice when I talk about the tsunami. We will never know why bad things happen to good people, why God would let such a thing happen to anyone. But we are not supposed to know, we are asked to TRUST and keep FAITH that His ways are better, His Plan is for the greater good. Even when it hurts. This is not just my story. This is the story of everyone that was there that day. The hospital management, all the healthcare workers, the drivers, the porters, the administration staff, the random strangers that helped carry the bodies, and especially the families that lost so much that day. These are scenes you don’t just file away. By sharing this, I hope it brings some comfort in shared experiences. In some way, this is me on the therapist’s couch. Some wounds never really heal, but some scars, both mental and physical, I bear with gratitude, as a reminder that every trial reinforces our faith, and that we made it. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” James 1:3In remembrance of those who passed, and those who endured their passing. With love.Lupe Isaia Samoa   

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

Samoa, aid from China and colonialism

I read with interest the Letter to the Editor from from Afamasaga F. Toleafoa addressing China and Developments at Mulifanua. The letter was replying to earlier correspondence from a Mr Kevin Hart which I’ve not seen. It is sad to see an educated Samoan trot out old bogeymen in his quest for Aid hand outs. Yes, Samoa did suffer colonialism. But surely with independence already 60 years in the past, Samoans have grown up.  I would have thought “growing up” means aid money is a thing of the past. Mr. Toleafoa expresses a distaste for regional Pacific governments and their hypocrisy in regard to trading with mainland China. Mr. Toleafoa is surely 100% correct in his views on this. I would be hard pressed myself to find a more unpalatable politician than the current Australian prime minister - and his predecessors. I would ask however, that before he would commit Samoa to an alliance with the Chinese Communist Party he do some research into the loss of political autonomy in Australia that has come about with the rush to market and profit in mainland China. I suggest he start with surveying the citizenry of Tibet and Xinjiang. How do Tibetans and Uighurs feel they are doing under the Chinese Communist Party’s dictatorship? I suggest that he visit Cambodia and see for himself the corruption entailed in taking hand-outs from a police state. I suggest he discuss with other Pacific country leaders what they think of the Chinese Communist Party’s preparations for war – with especial reference to the militarisation by desecration of reefs in the South China Sea.  I note on this point, that the Communist Party of China spurned the International Court’s rulings. As part of this research, I suggest that Mr. Toleafoa also visit Taiwan. Recently Taiwan has shown it is open for business. I’m not sure how open Mme President Tsai Ying-wen and her Government are in term of approaches for aid money; but at least in Taiwan you can find a free press, freedom of association, freedom of speech; you can find free and fair elections, rule of law and transparency. Levels of corruption are probably (by Chinese Communist Party standards) almost non-existent in Taiwan. No survey on such an important question could be complete without meeting and seeking the views of jailed professionals who have dared to champion human rights. I am thinking of Mrs. Wang Yu of Beijing; Mr. Li Wenzu; the list is a long one. As in ages past, the jails of China are full of the tortured and illegally detained. I urge Mr. Toleafoa to think hard about his preferences for international relations – and his own motivations for these preferences.Yours sincerely, Robert Travers

Readfullstory magnifyingglass Read Full Story

Cartoons

All

Arrow right grey