It appears that a war of words has begun between two prominent (International) Samoan leaders, both of whom were elected at large by the people to be their representatives, their voice and in some instances – their savior.
Engaged now in a ‘he said, I said, he said’ battle, Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, U.S. Congressman representative for American Samoa released a somewhat diplomatic, yet steaming response to Samoa Prime Minister – Tuilaepa Sailele Aiono Malielegaoi’s comments about how the Congressman should ‘stop meddling into things he knows nothing about.’
The Prime Minister was referring to remarks made by Faleomavaega to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many others at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing held in Washington D.C on the 22 April 2009 regarding the situation in Fiji and other parts of the Pacific area in that “Fiji was not ready for democracy and elections.” Faleomavaega recently met with the once self imposed interim Prime Minister – Commodore Franque Bainimarama to the troubled – coup congested island nation of Fiji. This meeting happened at a time when the Pacific Forum had already issued sanction warnings to the Commodore that if an election date is not set by the 1st of May 2009, Fiji would be cut out of the Pacific Forum and subsequently from the Commonwealth and the European Union.
Within this ako full of questions, Tama Valevale asks:
Is our portion of this vast Pacific ocean becoming… a little too small?
What ever happened to ‘can we all just get along?’ I get this feeling that while the ocean that separates the two Samoas is vast enough to live comfortably, the meaning for the word ‘comfortable’ is determined by which major country is supplying the big ‘aide money’ to which Samoa.
There is, for as long as I can remember, an air of rivalry between Samoa and its American territorial counterpart – Tutuila, American Samoa. While Samoan traditions are the same in both, Culture is less congruent (Samoan Thesaurus: tutusa). Although, if NZ TVOne News Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver’s story on ‘Gangs and Guns in (Independent) Samoa’ is truthful, then it will then appear that the ‘culture’ of the two Samoas credits its sources of influence from the same place – America.
Jealousy is such an evil thing and it comes at a price. I am not too sure which Samoa is jealous of which Samoa, but there is a McDonalds Restaurant in both, and to any Tom, Dick and Harry and Kiuga – the buck stops in the air conditioned ‘family restaurant’.
If a military commodore can force his way into the highest office in a Pacific Island government, then there is room enough in the Pacific for everyone to breath. Everyone who lives in the Pacific has that God-given right to speak about his or her surroundings and to speak about what they want to happen. Isn’t that Democracy – a ea?
Good intentions versus Personal Agendas
First of all, who stands to gain from this war of words? Will chastising the Congressman’s comments and seemingly ‘out of touch’ remarks, elevate the position and status of Samoa’s Prime Minister any more than it is now? Will taking the time to issue a dissecting rebuttal of the Prime Minister’s comments, do anything to add volume to the work the U.S. wants to do in the Pacific? (I mean, come on, we all know that the U.S. has been wanting to expand its feet here in the Pacific and Faleomavaega is the U.S. man in the Pacific.)
I stopped to question why, upon hearing Faleomavaega was to meet with Commodore Bainimarama. I just could not understand why anyone, in their right mind, would want to have anything to do with Bainimarama – democratically and human rights/ethics speaking. However, that is the mantra of the new U.S. President – Barack Obama to ‘rebuild’ isn’t it? He and his people are out to rebuild. (Oh, to have been a fly on that Fijian hut wall.)
One can only be concerned with Samoa’s agenda in its attempts to close ranks against Fiji, by alienating its closest Pacific neighbors. That is what is happening here. Tuilaepa is merely driving a wedge between him and anyone who isn’t being influenced by New Zealand and Australia.
In his attempts to be a stronger independent country voice, the only thing the Prime Minister is doing is drawing attention to the fact that he does not know where exactly he wants to be. One minute he’s driving on the Left hand side and the next minute he’s on the Right.
Democracy in the Pacific
Perhaps the waters of the South Pacific are indeed a little too small, but the constant bickering amongst ourselves is only leaving room for the much larger Pacific rim countries to butt into Pacific affairs. We live in a very difficult time. The present economic climate is doing very little to douse our passion driven, pride fueled attempts to assert dominance in the Pacific.
It is a wonder how we have come as far as we have. Samoans the world over have always been more aggressive in showing pride in our culture, our being. Does this ultimately control our every move? Unfortunately, Yes. It so appears, that in almost every ‘public arena’ where we should stand together with our Pacific peoples, Samoans manage somehow to hold their own private meeting and to come out as their own voice.
This mentality spills over into situations where and when we’re pitted against ourselves. Too many chiefs and not a lot of taule’ale’as. It is like we want to be innovative and to break out of shells but we hold on (tightly) to the one thing that keeps us in our shells…no it is not our pride…it’s our ‘forced respect’. We’re constantly looking for approval to do and say things because of our nature to give and show respect to our elders, our chiefs – who are our leo (voice). Yes this works, but it cannot be adhered to in its entirety – at least not within a democratic world.