Put people first

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It’s undeniable. In our humble view, it has to be said that one of the major obstacles for Samoa today is that the leadership seems to have lost touch with the realities of our people and our world.

We are talking about the sort of leadership that has its priorities upside down.

It’s not just the government. Folks, you see whether it’s sports, church, politics or whatever, you will find that the focus in dealing with challenges somewhat always puzzles the mind. 

It makes you wonder if these people really mean what they are saying because it just doesn’t add up. Let’s take health for example. We hear talks about a healthy nation all the time and yet the authorities continue to spend most of the money on buildings. There’s nothing wrong with buildings of course. 

But is it the best decision? What’s the value of a multi-million-tala hospital building when it only houses people who are dying because they are not getting the medical attention they need? What’s the point of a flash hospital when the health system is continuously beset by a chronic shortage of doctors and nurses? What good is a doctor if he/she has been so overworked that he/she cannot focus when dealing with a patient? These are the realities of today. It is what our people are experiencing on a daily basis.

And these are questions we have asked from time to time but how can we stop asking them if we continue to see the same thing over and over. 

One genius defined the word insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Looking at some of our problems in Samoa today, this genius makes a lot of sense. We cannot send a mechanic to perform a heart surgery. Neither can we expect an accountant to fix a broken car. Round pegs don’t fit square holes just as golf balls don’t belong on the rugby field.

Getting back to health, it must be said we are a nation of very intelligent people. After all the government is run by a pack of laui’a who are supposed to be super smart and well qualified. Doesn’t common sense then dictate that money should be invested in health workers first and foremost?

Does a person get treated by a building? What’s the point of all the expensive equipment in the world at a hospital if there is no one skilled enough to operate them?

It’s not just health by the way. Look at the problems in education. 

We want education to improve and yet the government pays teachers extremely lousy wages. Millions of aid funding is spent on school buildings and yet students’ performances are deteriorating because our best teachers are leaving for greener pastures?

In a couple of instances, we’ve had precious aid to the tune of five million tala pumped into concrete structure and yet after the launch and photos are taken, students turn up to find there are no teachers.

We ask again, what’s the point of having flash school buildings when we don’t have teachers to bring out the best from our young people? 

We’re not talking about just any type of teacher; we are talking about quality teachers, ones with a special gifting to uncover diamonds in the rough.

As one of the pillars of Samoan society, we always look to the church to set good examples for people to follow. Sadly, it has to be said that the church is no better because too many leaders in there have become so caught up with money and material wealth they have forgotten what they were there for in the first place. 

The churches are so distracted by material things – including the millions spent on buildings – they have forgotten their responsibility to care and love. 

And then they wonder why people aren’t turning up to church. 

What’s the point if all they’re interested in are wealth, positions and power?

Why should people continue to go to church when the sermon begins to sound more like a business session? 

And how demoralising is it to have all these multi-million-tala church buildings rising up in the middle of villages where people’s homes resemble a third world country?

You see, all these problems has something – or everything - to do with getting our priorities right. Yes, for the most part, we seem to be attempting to replace the roof of the house when the more serious problem involves the foundation.

Which means that naturally what you want to do is fix the foundation first, if it’s doable of course. There are some foundations that can be fixed. Others are simply beyond repair. They need to be demolished, taken apart so we can begin anew.

We are talking about deep-rooted issues, ones we shouldn’t just skim over and pretend they are okay. Things such as dealing with corruption, abuse of power, collusion and dealing with the waste of public monies.

Ladies and gentlemen, these problems don’t just fix themselves; quality leadership is required to help begin the repair process.

There are some tough decisions that must be made. In this country today, while we see blessings everywhere, we also cannot ignore the perennial problems. There are systematic failures at all levels that must be sorted. 

It requires restructuring and sorting out our priorities. At the end of the day, our priority should ultimately be about people.

Why? It’s quite simple. People make successful families, churches, villages and countries. There is nothing wrong with buildings and structures but peoples’ needs should be first and foremost. 

When we get that right, there is no doubt that everything else will fall into place. What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a fabulous Friday Samoa, God bless!

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