Lest we forget: “But what is happening is that the Samoa Observer has been publishing the truth,” Tuala Falenaoti.

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

On the front page of the Samoa Observer of 13 February 2018, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, is pictured as he’s addressing the Samoa Institute of Directors on the topic of Leadership and Governance.

Titled: “P.M. tells Directors to listen more, speak less”, his address highlighted his belief that “a great leader is someone who spends more time listening.”

In it, he reminded that “we have two ears and two eyes but only one mouth”, and we should use them “in that proportion.” 

Tuilaepa also told his audience: “A good leader looks and listens more than he or she speaks. Clearly, you cannot learn anything about the people you are leading if you spent more time speaking than observing.”

He went on to say: “This also involves picking up on the non-physical signs such as reading between the lines, using and trusting your instincts (or maybe) there is this quiet voice in your head that is warning you that something is just not right - such as your Yellow Alerts as they are called - and yet they are quite subtle so that it may require ‘practice to listen’ for these signs.”

The Prime Minister also encouraged the Directors to take their time to read and watch informative media coverage of issues, since this is an essential part of any leader’s life. 

Fine. He’s got a valid point there.  

He went on to say: “Firstly as a director, you must read all information, big or small, about the organisation you are a director of, why they are appearing in the media and more importantly, board papers that are given out every month. 

“A director must also be aware of what is happening with the organisation so that decision-making is based on good research and facts, not hearsay.”

He also reminded: “Great leadership is of critical importance for Samoa. Board members play a vital role in the development of the nation.”

Now who in his right mind could dispute that very sensible advice?

No one. 

Wonderful!

Indeed, Tuilaepa went on to explain: “Essentially, board members have been selected to work with management to achieve the performance targets set by government or each organisation providing various services to the community.

“What is often misunderstood by directors, is that at the board level, effective leadership no longer relies solely on ‘a one man band’ not the Chairman or Chairwoman, so to speak, but every director on the board must be diligent and participate with confidence when making board decisions. 

“Collective responsibility in the board room, means active discussions and the sharing of information that will assist the board make the best decision.”

Wonderful!

 

Tuilaepa’s full address was later published in the Samoa Observer. 

Still, looking back on it all now, it seems as if we’ve all come a long way from when Prime Minister Tuilaepa, was quick to throw that mighty authority of his callously around - mainly in front of those Big Laui’a of his anyway - so that in retrospect, we are reminded of that fateful day, when an Asian man arrived at Faleolo Airport. 

His plane had just arrived from Tonga, a little later at the terminal, he told the immigration officer on duty there his name was Kim Quang-I1, and since it was not clear if he was Chinese, Korean or Japanese, the officer decided the man was a mystery, so he had him detained at Tafaigata Prison.

Fifteen days later, on 23 April 1997, he was a mystery no more. On that day, under questioning at the Magistrate’s Court, it was revealed that the man was an impersonator. Kim Quang-I1 told the interpreter his real name was Jin Jipei; he also revealed he was Chinese.

This time it appears that those fifteen days of horror at Tafaigata have obviously rattled his resolve, and now that the ambiguity shrouding his identity was removed he was acquiescent; and from then on he revealed all having obviously been persuaded that being defiant did not work well at notorious Tafaigata.

Jin Jipei now told the court he sincerely thought the passport he had bought in Tonga was “authorised.” He confessed he had made a regretful mistake and entered a plea of not guilty.

He was again detained in custody until 11 June 1997; which means he would now be spending a total of more than two months at mind-bending Tafaigata; the thought might have been paralysing.

And by that time, the passport scandal in which the government was now deeply involved, had become its most pestering headache; indeed, it had become the country’s most controversial issue with many accusing the government now of lying to cover it up.

Along the way, letters to the editor scoffing at the government and accusing it of being corrupt, were published in the Samoa Observer; and yet the louder the public outcry, the harder the government was defending itself, as it was continuing to maintain its innocence, maintaining that it had no knowledge of passports being sold illegally abroad.

And then word from Tafaigata Prison said, Prisoner Jin Jipei was no longer interested in life. A story titled:“Detained Chinese not doing well”, appearing on the Samoa Observer’s front page of 9 May 1997, quoted a Police Warden as saying: “Jin Jipei is not so good.”

Asked to explain, he said: “Sometimes, Jipei would not eat. So we try to make him eat something.”

Explained the warden: “Jipei is deteriorating both physically and mentally.”

In the next edition of the Samoa Observer, an editorial comment titled: “This passport scandal will just not go away,” was published.

It asked: “Did Jin Jipei envision being jailed here after he had spent thousands of dollars buying his passport, his so-called ticket to a new life?

“We doubt it. He was most likely thinking the most pleasant thoughts instead, in anticipation of a new life of peace and freedom in paradise.

“He must be regretting all that now, as he’s screaming inside: ‘Thank you Samoa for your hospitality! Thank you for the dream!’ 

“It is something for the PM and his immigration people to think about.” 

On 11 May 1997, another story titled “Concern over Jipei’s health shown” was written; this time it was published on the front page of the Sunday Samoan.

It said that concerned over Jipei’s health “members of the public have asked that he be released on humanitarian grounds.”

Locked up in a small room with other prisoners awaiting trial, “they are not allowed to go outside,” a warden confirmed. “They must remain inside that room until their trials.

 “The room is very small with little space to move around,” he explained. “The usual food are some fingers of boiled banana, and a piece of mutton the size of your finger.” 

Over the following weeks the public response was intense. Letters to the editor urging that Jin Jipei be released were published. Under the headline: “Set Jin Jipei free”, one writer wrote: “Jin Jipei should not be in prison because of corrupt government officials who cared only about making easy money.

“This will make another scar on Samoa’s reputation in the eyes of the international community. Looking forward to a fair and corrupt-free Samoa.”

Another writer wrote: “Others should be locked up instead. Indeed, why is he being locked up at Tafaigata? Surely, the people who sold him the passport should be locked up instead.

“What a strange way our democratic system works? For goodness sake, this is an island. Where could he run to?”

Yet another was a prayer.  

Sent in by:  “Young Samoans fighting for JUSTICE”, it said:

“GOD, no doubt you read our minds and hear

our cry for justice and freedom, we care so much

for Samoa, so we gather in groups and share

our disbelief there is so much corruption

in our ruling government so that they do not know

but we feel the struggle and pain of those poor people

in the villages and we see the growing number

of young people not at school, so we just

CAN’T BEAR THE INJUSTICE OF THESE MEN!

Around that time, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, attacked the Samoa Observer for publishing the Kim Quang-I1-Jin Jipei story, and he told Parliament: “Such things should have never been made public.” 

And then he fired the lethal shot, saying: “The problem is that the Samoa Observer is being run by idiots and fools.”

In response, the Member of Parliament, Tuala Falenaoti Malietoa, stood up in the House, and told the Speaker: “But what is happening is that the Samoa Observer has been publishing the truth.”

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