Samoa mo Samoa march "hypocrisy": Tuilaepa

The caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi has described the 'Samoa mo Samoa' demonstration on Wednesday in support of the judiciary as “hypocrisy” and questioned the organisers' and participants' true motives.

The march on Wednesday afternoon gathered more than 500 people and was organised by two self-described ordinary citizens with no political affiliations.

They asked Samoans who wanted to stand in support of the judiciary, constitution, individual rights, Samoa’s first female Prime Minister-elect and against the continuous abuse of women to join them in the peaceful protest.

However during his weekly TV3 programme on Wednesday, Tuilaepa responded to a question about the protestors' stated aim of standing up for their individual rights by saying, skeptically: "What rights?

“That march should have taken place with the previous unpleasant incidents; for women to have more seats in Parliament and for the protection of the women’s integrity that was threatened by remarks said by that side.

“There was no voice then, so what’s the use of the march? They didn’t say a single thing; this is what you call hypocrisy.”

Tuilaepa referred to the “candlelight march” that condemned all forms of violence against women.

That event was apparently spurred by comments purportedly attributed to the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party deputy leader La’auli Leuatea Schmidt. H.R.P.P. supporters, as well as Tuilaepa, construed the remarks as a threat by the Gagaifomauga No. 3 Member-elect of sexual violence against rival supporters anonymously attacking the winners of the April-election online.  

The march organised by H.R.P.P. supporters continued – after the TV3 network on which La'auli was implicated in giving credence to the view that La'auli had made sexist remarks – issued an apology to La'auli for broadcasting what it later admitted was a misinterpretation of the remarks.

TV3 reporter Rula Su'a Vaai admitted to being instructed by the Prime Minister to ask a question about the comments, even though she had never seen them herself. 

She admitted to relying on members of the Prime Minister's own media team for a summary of their contents, shortly before going to air with a highly distorted account of what La'auli had in fact said. The reporter and the network apologised for getting its facts wrong and misrepresenting La'auli.

Tuilaepa said he does not understand what the march on Wednesday was for when there were other marches held previously which they could have joined instead.

He also critiqued the attendance of some of the march's prominent employees, including senior lawyer Unasa Iuni Sapolu.

“I don’t understand them," he said. 

"I heard there were some from F.A.S.T. there and the leader of S.S.I.G. [Samoa Solidarity International Group], that woman (Unasa), she only shows up at things that are problematic.

“So I don’t know what that march meant. I guess it's good they came out to march so the people can see what kind of people they are. I didn’t see it but I was told that many of them are people from F.A.S.T., and yet they are generalising it, saying it is to voice the people’s rights.

“They should have joined our evening devotion at [Mulinuu] then because this is the political party that stands for the protection of our people’s rights if their intentions were genuine.

“They didn’t show up for the women’s march, they didn’t march against the vulgar comments; they should have said it is a march that is against the rights of the public.

“The light is already upon Samoa. Samoans will not be deceived by another Samoan.”

The march, organised by So'oau Va’a and Maylynn Brown, began at Apia Boulevard and gathered at the Malae I Tiafau.

Dressed in the colours of the Samoan flag, protestors carried posters with messages condemning the ongoing political battle between the major political parties.

Unlike other recent post-election demonstrations, such as two recent marches in support of women's representation and against violence against women respectively, Wednesday’s march did not include former or current Ministry heads, Cabinet Ministers, former Members, or Members of Parliament-elect.

The display of support for the judiciary came after the incumbent H.R.P.P. made a complaint to the Judicial Service Commission about the nation's judges generally but the Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese, in particular singling him out for criticism such as describing him as incompetent.

New Zealand's Minister for Pacific People, Aupito William Sio, also condemned the criticism of Samoa's judiciary in a frankly worded interview on Radio Samoa last Friday. 

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