The writing on the wall

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It’s been a hectic week. Hardly a dull moment in paradise. 

What with the election campaign in full swing, counting down to the day of voting this Friday, we’ve certainly witnessed some very interesting developments in the political landscape of our beautiful Samoa.

To say that politics is a dirty game is an understatement. It’s a nasty fight where the ones with the dirtier tactics will always have the upper hand. 

Indeed, don’t let their smooth talk; wonderfully worded promises and clever oratories fool us. 

Not all that glitters is gold and that’s what we should remember.

And when things get a bit too heavy, our saving grace is found when we step back, breathe a little and take a look outside Samoa. We will find that we’re not that bad after all. 

In fact, compared to some other countries near and far, our squabbles pale in comparison. 

Still, some of the stuff happening here definitely boggles the mind. It really does.

Now of all the developments in the past week, the Tautua Samoa Party‘s candidates defeat during the eligibility challenges and of course the dismissal of its lawsuit against the caretaker government are perhaps the biggest of them all. 

There is no doubt that these are some of the developments the people of this country will be talking about, even after this elections has been put to bed.

And that’s understandable. We’ve pretty much entered a new era this year with a number of changes to the laws governing elections.

Firstly, the eligibility challenges before polling day are new and the idea poses some questions worth considering. One intriguing question is the timing of these challenges. Held a week before the elections, one wonders if there is a method in thy timing. 

As some of the losing candidates have found, there is little – if anything – they can do now but wait for the next General Elections. That’s heart-breaking, especially in the case of some of them who have spent the past years preparing for the occasion.

Then there is the question about the motive of some of the amendments to the Electoral Act that led to a number of challenges. The monotaga, residential criteria among other issues have become major talking points in this election.

Providing that some of these amendments were only recently passed, you cannot help but think that there is a sinister motive behind them. 

Were they designed to bully the weak, intimidate the vulnerable and manipulate the system to someone’s advantage? Or are they all part of the clever electioneering we’ve come to know over the years? 

Keep in mind that in some cases, just because it’s legal it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right. 

And we can see that in some of the challenges we witnessed last week. 

Suffice to say, there remains a lot of work to be done in cleaning up and clarifying some of the points being raised. One sensitive issue obviously is the concept of the monotaga. What is a monotaga? Is it the same as service? Can any service rendered be equated to a monotaga? And now that the law has superseded our customs and traditions when it comes to papa and paramount chiefs, does that mean Tama Aiga title holders will now also be required to provide monotaga? And if they don’t, are still eligible then to those high offices they hold?

These are valid questions worth considering.

 Away from the eligibility challenges, the dismissal of the Tautua Samoa’s lawsuit against the government was another interesting development – although it was hardly surprising. 

According to the Supreme Court, the lawsuit was politically motivated and it lacked any credibility. As a result, the motion filed by the Tautua Samoa Party’s leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II was struck out.

As weak as the Court had found, the lawsuit has set a benchmark for generations to come nonetheless. It has certainly served notice to the government that the opposition party is not afraid to take them on. 

The act of filing the lawsuit on its own will give birth to a generation of Samoans who will not feel intimidated to stand up to the government in cases where wrongdoing is suspected.

Sadly for the Tautua Samoa Party, they are up against such a powerful machine and they must feel so frustrated at being pushed back everywhere they have tried to make a move. 

They shouldn’t give up. We hope they continue to persevere.

The worst thing that could happen after Friday is when we wake up to find there is no recognised opposition party in Parliament. There is a very real possibility of that happening given the status quo. 

We hope that doesn’t happen. 

Samoa needs a credible opposition party and it will be a real sad blow to democracy in this country when we are back to a situation where there is no recognised opposition.

With that said, we cannot ignore the fact that there are now four Members of Parliament who have already secured their seats. 

One of them is none other that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi who was successful in his eligibility challenge against Tu’ula Kiliri. The other three are Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Fagaivalu Kenrick Samu and Lautafi Fio Purcell. Love or loathe them, the fact is they are through and they will no doubt have the upper hand in deciding the make up of the government after the elections.

With Tuilaepa likely to resume the role of Prime Minister, the most interesting question is who will become his deputy Prime Minister. From what we’ve been told, there are moves in the H.R.P.P caucus to allow the leader to pick his deputy.

Are we about to see our first female Deputy Prime Minister? What about Lautafi, does he stand a chance? 

All things considered, the H.R.P.P will return with probably the same number – if not more M.Ps – than the last time. The way things are, it is almost impossible for an outside force to have an impact on the powerful H.R.P.P? 

That means the only way it can be defeated is when it breaks up from the inside. Has the H.R.P.P become too powerful that it might self-destruct? Could it be that they will be their own undoing? Do we see the writing on the wall?

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless! 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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