SAMOA’S POWERFUL TUILAEPA SLOWLY LOSING GRIP

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SAMOA’S POWERFUL TUILAEPA SLOWLY LOSING GRIP

By Savea Sano Malifa

APIA, Samoa (March. 21, 2011) - Friday last week, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa demonstrated once again he has the unique power to keep people under his control in silent, calm obedience.

This time he proved for all to see he is the Human Rights Protection Party’s (HRPP) supreme boss whose word is scared, when he took the floor of Parliament to announce his Cabinet for the next five years.

As he spoke, his power to mesmerize his loyal followers was so overwhelming all they could do was sat in anxious, silent awe. Some in the audience say a few eyes turned misty.

Indeed, it looked as though if the man had waved to them to follow, they’d have done so without hesitation like children following the Pipe Piper to the edge of the cliff.

Such is their unparalleled devotion. And as you’re looking you’re finding you just can’t help admiring that kind of loyalty. Just as you can’t help admiring their boss’ power to unite with a sharp, arrogant word here and there which is also his secret, lethal weapon.

This time however, Tuilaepa’s choice of Ministers seems to underline that formidable, inner confidence of his toned by years of experience, hard-earned wisdom.

Having dropped a couple and demoted others whom many feel he had confided in closely over the years, he is actually now saying he really doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Neither is he bothered that some in the party, roused by anger or perhaps disappointment, may rise in rebellion in an effort to remove him.

Indeed, Tuilaepa seems to be challenging the HRPP to do just that. And in that light he is repeating what the late Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana did when the fed-up Opposition kept calling to him to step down.

Tofilau, in response, shot to the floor and acidly announced: "I challenge any of you to come and remove me from this chair."

No one did. Instead they all went silent and cowered in fright. Such was Tofi’s largeness in those days. But can Tuilaepa really emulate him?

Still, that was some years ago. Nevertheless some still believe the past is the best teacher.

Anyhow, looking at the changes in Tuilaepa’s new Cabinet, the former Speaker Tolofuaivalelei F. Leiatua, now replaced by La’auli Polataivao, has been moved to the Ministry of Women Affairs.

Anyway, that should be a good place for him to be a Minister of. Sure, it would be far different from being the Speaker of Parliament on whom all the lavish praises are heaved, but then at least here at the Ministry of Women they’ll look after him well.

Besides, he doesn’t even have to worry about being attacked by people who blame him for being soft when those nasty constitutional amendments had been rushed through Parliament, without him saying stop this nonsense.

In the case of Fiame Naomi as the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, however, everyone knows she was born to be a politician and that is the way she will always be; and now that she’s this country’s moral princess as well, we have to accept she’s our perennial responsibility too.

On the other hand, Tuiloma Pule Lameko is a case of never giving up on a fight you truly believe in. You just to keep on fighting until one day they will just have to sit up and take notice. Now rewarded with being made Minister of Revenue, well that indeed should be an ample reward by any count.

As for Le Mamea Ropati Mualia, he is a man who truly believes in the HRPP and the goals they’d started out to achieve. Never mind what those goals may look like today. They’re obviously buried deep in the rubble that came with their being in power for far too long.

Anyhow, Le Mamea’s political career started as the Minister of Education under the Human Rights Protection Party government, later he joined the Opposition, and at one point he became Opposition leader.

Later still squabbling over leadership occurred, he distanced himself and flirted briefly with another Opposition faction, however that one too did not work out so he just gave up, and quit for good.

And now that he’s back with the HRPP and he’s been handed the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to run, he seems happy enough, which means he’s finally satisfied the cycle is complete, so we wish him well in the years ahead.

Now let’s see. The one change in Tuilaepa’s Cabinet that will continue to refuse to go away is the ouster of the Minister of Finance, Papali’itele Niko Lee Hang.

For sure, that blow would have hit Papali’i as a shocker impossible to figure out.

Not only was he dropped as the Minister of Finance, he is also removed altogether from Cabinet which is oddly unpredictable.

On the other hand, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, who was the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, is now the Minister of Treasury where he has taken over as Minister of Finance. Now that’s the sort of deal we can live with.

Like it or not, politics cannot be used by the powerful as a game in which they play with people’s lives.

To cuddle a rival in the hope of ridding a potential threat at the risk of alienating an ally is not the sort of game normal people play. Indeed, it’s both brutal and enfeebling.

Better to stick with honesty, openness, truth. Those are games decent folks play. The point is that there is just no man-made blunder more heinous than violating a good man’s trust. For some it’s the end of the road.

This is probably why Misa Telefoni and Hans Joachim Keil decided to follow John Wayne’s lead, left the Human Rights Protection Party behind to sort out whatever mess it may be grappling with, and just "ride quietly away into the sunset."

Who knows? They might have even been dealt a stunning blow too had they held on. Still, theirs’ was decidedly a wise move.

Perhaps they’ve suspected the HRPP was sinking deeper and deeper in murky corruption and were therefore worried, and now that they realize "something is rotten in the state Denmark" - if we may borrow from the Bard - they know they just have to get out.

Who knows, perhaps Papali’itele Lee Hang too should be thankful. Oh yes, perhaps Tuilaepa has really done him a favor by letting him go so that he also can now "ride quietly away into the sunset" like the other two. Tell us what you think.

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

Savea Sani Malifa is the Chief Editor of the Samoan Observer newspaper in Samoa.

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