Historian highlights 'positive aspects' of policing

A historian has pointed out the “positive aspects” of policing in recent public events, saying he was impressed the public could march to express their views amid police maintaining peace in a "non-threatening” manner.

Dr Morgan Tuimalealiifano, who is an Associate Professor of History at The University of South Pacific in Fiji, told the Samoa Observer that there were differences in the roles that law enforcement officers played in past protests when compared to recent Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.)-led marches.

He said in the recent pro-H.R.P.P. marches the public marched freely expressing their views and the police supervised their protest in a non-threatening manner. 

“They are the positive aspects of Samoa's recent political history when the public freely marched and expressed their opinion with a non-threatening police supervisory presence,” said Dr. Tuimalealiifano.

The academic’s comments follow the Supreme Court’s decision delivered on Thursday which ordered that the Speaker of Parliament get the H.R.P.P. Members sworn-in. That formal process was undertaken early Friday morning.

Hailing from the villages of Falelatai and Leulumoega, Dr. Tuimalealiifano acknowledged he is related to the Head of State, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II and that his opinion will naturally be “not without prejudice.” 

Nonetheless he said the blocking of the H.R.P.P. march was unconstitutional.

“The blocking of the march by H.R.P.P. Members and their supporters are contrary to the constitution, as witnessed from the last century in the mid-1990s when the Samoa National Democratic Party, Pule and Tumua and others marched freely regarding public issues such as the change of the road,” said Dr. Tuimalealiifano.

“The most recent demonstration was at the 2021 elections when F.A.S.T. and S.S.I.G. and others publicly marched against the caretaker government under police protection.”

The Professor said his only concern is that the Government of the day “recognise the opposition” so both sides can play their part.

The Court’s judgement ended a three-day stand-off in Mulinuu between the H.R.P.P. and the police who were instructed by the Speaker to keep the party and the public from entering the grounds of the Parliament House. 

The ban extended to the Tofilau Eti Alesana building that houses the offices of the Legislative Assembly and the historic Malae O Tiafau. Police blocked off the road leading into Sogi through Mulinuu. 

The blockade prevented a preacher who was scheduled to lead the prayer service at the H.R.P.P. headquarters in Petesa on Tuesday morning from attending the gathering. Tuesday is when Parliament opened and the standoff began. 

The preacher was old and too frail to walk from the point of the police blockade that was set up near the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel to the H.R.P.P. headquarters, a spokesperson for the H.R.P.P. said in a live broadcast on Tuesday.

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