Monday, April 11, 2011

[pima.nius] SAMOA: Samoa Observer editorial - Frightening campaign to silence critics

2:50 PM |

Title – 7388 SAMOA: Samoa Observer editorial - Frightening campaign to silence critics
Date – 11 April 2011
Byline – Savea Sano Malifa
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Samoa Observer, 7/4/11
Copyright – SO
Status – Unabridged
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Opinion :

By Savea Sano Malifa, editor-in-chief

APIA (Samoa Observer/Pacific Media Watch): The idea that general election petitions may soon be outlawed in Samoa is scary.

We are looking at a people being shunted into a tight corner where their freedom to say a critical word against their government is taken away from them by a rule of law.

By then the Constitution – or is it Samoa's Supreme Law, whatever those silly words mean – will have become just a badly butchered document not even worthy of the paper it's printed on.

Last week Prime Minister Tuilaepa confirmed a submission for a Commission of Inquiry into the general elections would be tabled before Cabinet.

The commission, he said, would consider a number of issues including election petitions.

"We need to look at these issues as many countries hardly do petitions," he pointed out.  "But for us (election petitions are) continuing."

He's right. But then he should also know why. And since it appears he doesn't know – or is he pretending he doesn't for one reason or another? – then let us remind him.

Other democracies do not go through the senselessly costly hassle of having to deal with petition elections – at the taxpaying public's expense that is – for the simple reason their governments are not corrupt.

In those countries their political leaders are well aware corruption is the root cause of all their problems, so they seriously work towards avoiding it at any cost.

This is why they have laws in place – and they are very much honoured – to ensure all forms of corruption, particularly during general elections, do not exist.

However in Samoa all the relevant laws seem to be aimed at ensuring corruption is revered.

For instance, acts of corruption, such as bribery or gifts disguised as essential gestures of respect in the Samoan culture that makes it unique in the world, openly made monetary donations at  fa'alavelave or  village and family ceremonies, are a part and parcel of general elections.

And so are government-paid projects in villages and districts such as committees promoting good health, free education, and plantation roads carried out close to general elections.

Which follows if the government truly wants election petitions out of the way all it has to do is draft legislation aimed at eliminating all forms of corruption, and the problem is solved.

However it appears that is not the only problem Prime Minister Tuilaepa is struggling with.
He also wants all members of the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) of which he is leader, to have complete and unquestioned loyalty to the party.

That desire of his showed up after the recent elections when from 112 candidates the HRPP fielded, only 36 were elected.

Of the unelected, some filed petitions against other HRPP members claiming corruption. Which was the spark that fired Tuilaepa's displeasure.

"I have mentioned in some of my announcements [to the party] that we need to be of one heart," he said.
"That whoever wins, let them have their five years.

"I can tell you some have done the noble thing stepping aside, and wishing the winners the best for their parliamentary term.

"But others are different," the PM said. "They have gone ahead and filed petitions."

And because of them – among others - a submission for a Commission of Inquiry into the general elections is now before Cabinet. The details of the submission are not clear.

What's clear is that those petitioners must now be living in agitated turmoil. As they're waiting for their day in court, they're aware that if they're found to have been involved in any corrupt practice at all, they'll be jailed. And so are their witnesses.
That's the law.

Which is the most frightening aspect of this campaign to silence critics of the government.
The truth is that everyone knows there is virtually no honesty in Samoa's general elections. It is where corruption is rampant.
Which follows that if petitioners are punished with jail sentences for dishonesty during general elections, what about the petitioned who are themselves allegedly dishonest during the same elections?

In Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist, Mr Brownlow says to Mr Bumble: "The law assumes that your wife acts under your direction."

Replies Mr Bumble: "If the law supposes that, then the law is an ass, a idiot!

"If that's the eye of the law, then the law is a bachelor. And the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience."

Indeed, may the eye of this ass of a law be shut by fairness, justice.

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