Under the cloak of the dreaded COVID-19 virus that is sweeping the world in its wake with fatalities, there is another dreaded situation that is brewing in our beloved Samoa that threatens to bring it to its knees.
It comes with the planned implementation of three Bills that are currently being proposed and discussed by the current government:
- Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020
- Lands and Titles Bill 2020
- Judicature Bill 2020
Now, I’m no law student, I leave that to my sister, daughter and other family members who are either studying, consulting or making their living in this profession.
But as an interested diaspora Samoan of dual citizenship (NZ born with Samoan ancestry) with Faalavaau matai (chiefly) title from the village of Siufaga (2000) and as an Indigenous researcher with a vested interest in what happens in Samoa, having built our family home in Fasitoo-uta last year for our parents and taking our family over regularly to keep ties with Samoa, I think all Samoans should be awake and watchful over the coming weeks as to what the outcome of these proposed (but already planned to be implemented) Bills will bring to the fabric of a new Samoa.
There have been many outspoken opponents to the Bill, in Samoa, overseas and especially on Social media ranging from the NZ Law Society headed by Ms Tiana Epati (daughter of retired NZ Judge Aeau Semi Epati), the Samoan Law Society and even the former Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi (with an Honourary Doctorate), weighing in with a very telling stance and challenge about the validity of these new Bills especially when members of his family were heavily involved in drafting and confirming what we now know as the 1962 year of Samoa’s Independence in becoming self-governing.
To really get a good grasp of what’s going on, it’s best to read up on the Samoa Law Society and NZ’s law society comments, have a look at the draft bills, read up Samoa Observer’s articles, scan the various Samoan based social media sites eg. SSIG, Samoa mo Samoa, Save the Old Apia Court House Campaign etc. watch Tui Atua’s commentary that also revealed the fact that the Samoan government is in deep debt to China and needs to able to fund the loan in some way, shape or form with Samoa’s land being one of its greatest assets.
One of the interesting challenges from the current HRPP (Human Rights Protection Party) government is the idea that the constitution is too palagi in its origin and that the Samoan forefathers who helped to draft it didn’t know better (that’s my own interpretation of the government’s position) and that the new bill/s will bring about a more Samoan perspective on the current position. Really? let’s have a think about that…
What they seem to forget is that the 1962 constitution was a culmination of decades of hard-fought words and war against being suppressed by foreign powers through the resistance of fighting civil wars in the late 1800s to early 1900s (similar to NZ with Maori) powered by British, American and German interests vying for political power over the Pacific region, with Samoa being the cradle.
The creation of the Mau movement of resistance, in those early days, saw many of our Samoan forefathers exiled from families heading for the bush and sent overseas; the 1918 flu epidemic that swept through Samoa taking thousands of lives due to NZ’s inept governing (an apology later given by NZ government in 2002 and 2018); the execution of (my interpretation) of a beloved leader Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III and 10 other Samoans in 1929 (Black Saturday).
Those were just some of the events that our Samoan forebearers and constitutional founders brought to bear when drafting out then confirming the 1962 constitution as we know it. It is arrogant to think that in 2020 the proposed new bills would be ‘more Samoan’ thinking than what had been already hard-fought, lived and died through, with the genuine Samoan-ness at that time compared to today.
In the 1960s, the then-modern world was slowly seeping in to envelop Samoa but there were still traditionally built houses, transport and indigenous Samoan cultural practices being observed genuinely with little injection of the colonial values and lifestyles that Samoans in Samoa live today. In 2020, some 60 years later, that is not the case.
This morning, a motorcade of some 30+ cars started at Satapuala headed by the SSIG Samoan Solidarity International Group to take a petition to Mulinuu. My signature was on the petition as there is still time for a referendum, as suggested by Ms Epati, but who’s to know what will happen. Samoa, ala mai. Samoa awaken this is not the time to rest for what lies ahead. It is said that the worst thing to happen is when good people do nothing. Now is not the time…
Photo credit: Save the Old Apia Court House Campaign (Facebook page). Artist: JMUArts.