Well, the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Meeting has come and gone. All we are left with today is a communiqué and fond memories from what was a very busy time for Samoa, last week.
Looking at the feedback from our satisfied visitors, it’s hard to disagree about Samoa’s effort to put her best foot forward to welcome and accommodate people from all over the world. From what we’ve been told so far, everyone has returned with a favourable impression of Samoa, with officials referring to Samoa’s turn to host the Forum as “the most organised Forum ever.”
What they found even more impressive was Samoa’s ability to engage the private sector and civil society, rather than just the “usual” Forum meeting processes.
In the end, no wonder the Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, was left with nothing but praise for Samoa, especially Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.
She described the Chairman of the Forum as a “formidable leader” and “an asset to the Pacific Islands Forums,” complimenting his ability to bring Pacific leaders together to have “tough conversations” on a number of complex issues.
“He is a formidable leader and the respect that he commands is undeniable,” said Dame Meg. “He’s got a great sense of humour but it is his collegiality to bring Pacific leaders to have tough conversations that I see as a big asset for us.”
Dame Meg added that the Samoan government and the people of Samoa did a phenomenal job as a host country.
“Everything was well organised, they did their job and we did ours, and the teamwork was impressive,” she said. “I cannot thank them enough for the undivided attention put in to making the forum a success, in terms of organising.”
Well, there you go Samoa, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. From Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Cabinet ministers, government officials, accommodation providers, to every one who played a part last week, you should be thoroughly proud of yourself.
The beautiful thing about Samoa is that while we may not agree on issues all the time, we are a patriotic people and when the time comes for us to make our country look good in the eyes of the world, everyone gladly contributes. From the women, men and children who cared to decorate their villages with small flags, to the workers who kept Beach Road clean, we can all agree that everyone contributed.
As for Tuilaepa, it is undisputed that he has a reputation in the Pacific as one of the strongest and more reliable leaders of his time. As Samoans, we should be proud of him. He has the experience and grace to perform roles, such as the Chairmanship, with humour, finesse and class.
Like him or loathe him, he is indeed an asset to the Pacific.
Should he ever decide to hang up the boots, he will surely be sorely missed.
But let’s not talk about that for now.
The fact is, we need Tuilaepa. Away from the Pacific region, Tuilaepa has a mountain of work to get through. It has everything to do with sorting our problems, such as corruption, abuse, collusion and conflicts of interest within the public service. We don’t need to tell you how much these are hurting our ordinary people.
In Samoa today, we see the abuse of public property and positions as a disease. The mentality of entitlement among certain sectors of the public service is absolutely horrifying.
Elsewhere, it almost seems as if corruption has been legitimised to protect vested interests by the high, powerful and mighty.
We see cases of the pot calling the kettle black, and we hear so much hypocrisy being spoken where leaders are telling others to be honest, when they are anything but.
Truth be told, this is the sort of stuff Tuilaepa should now focus on. It’s undeniable he has done a lot for this country. He has singlehandedly raised Samoa’s profile as a result of some very tough decisions he has made over the years. We are grateful.
But we see complacency in a lot of areas and that’s what he has got to deal with, first and foremost.
And one last thing, he really needs to sort out the mess that is the Samoa Rugby Union, of which he is an integral part. Start by making sure Manu Samoa qualifies for the next Rugby World Cup. That is now a matter of urgency, as failure to do so could perhaps lead to what most people have been saying, that now is perhaps the time he should consider calling it a day so he can enjoy the beautiful sunshine of Upolu’s south coast.
Have a wonderful Wednesday, Samoa. God bless!