He who laughs first laughs last!

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Has it ever occurred to you that our Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, is perhaps the most written about and photographed individual, whose mugshot has been appearing quite consistently, on the front pages of the Samoa Observer over the years all the way to today?

And now supposing that it has, what do you think is the trick he’s been employing to manipulate those who’ve been producing this paper, into making him arguably the most visible - and indeed the most vilified - personality since peaceful, unassuming Samoa had become independent from colonial rule, some 55 years ago. 

In any case, it would be interesting to know what your views are, on this important matter. And in the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the headlines, we’re talking about here.

Friday, 3 November, 2017: “Govt. brings back Criminal Libel law in hunt for ‘Ghost writers’, the headline says.” 

Down below, Tuilaepa is saying: “(Those Ghost Writers) are hiding behind their freedom of expression, to vent their vile and demeaning allegations on social media, and this will no longer be tolerated. Their days of mischief are numbered.”

Wednesday, 8 November, 2017: The front page headline reads: “Union Broke, P.M. admits.” The “union” in question is the Rugby Union.

The news is foreboding, and perhaps to Tuilaepa, as the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, it is. 

Tuilaepa told the Samoa Observer: “We are bankrupt. In other words, we are insolvent. It means the Union cannot continue to pay off their debts with the banks.”

Tuilaepa also revealed: “We also need money to pay the players so they can continue to play.” 

And yet there was no money in the till, so that all that they were hoping for was “some sort of financial help from the public,” and that too was not even worth thinking seriously about.    

Friday, 10 November, 2017, the front page headline, reads: What ‘dictatorship’? 

Just down below, Tuilaepa explains: “This is a Christian move to protect the victims who are being defamed. This law is designed as a refuge to people whose names and reputations, have been ruined.”

Indeed, the Christian move, as it is soon spelt out by Tuilaepa, is apparently embodied in his government’s decision to revive the Law of Criminal Libel, which had already been abolished. 

He said that in hindsight, he regretted his decision to remove this law from the law books, saying: “I should have never abolished this law which caters to protect victims of defamation.” 

And today, even though he’s accepted his being called by his “critics” a “dictator” with others attacking him viciously “in relation to the Law of Criminal Libel,” he’s remaining emphatic in his claim that “this is not my law!”

So whose law was it then?

Well, if you asked our opinion, we would have to say it was the late, ailing Tofilau Eti Alesana, who was Prime Minister at the time, so that there was no doubt it was his deputy Tuilaepa, who was in near-complete control of how the government was being run, all that time.

Now lastly, on the front page of the Sunday Samoan, on 3 December 2017, the headline reads: “P.M. laughs at protest plan”.

Just down below, he is quoted as having said in a tone of voice that might have sounded thick with excited sarcasm: “These are the same people who are hiding behind the ‘Ole Palemia’, so that maybe they will give their complaints to the roof of Parliament, and then voice their concerns towards those construction workers out there”. 

What ridicule! What fun!

As for the protest march that had been organised by “Samoa Solidarity International (S.S.I.)”, yesterday it went ahead from Vaisigano out west and all the way towards the seat of Parliament at Mulinu’u, just as it’d been planned. 

However, it appears that the group was unhappy about certain issues including the passage of the “illegal land reform law, known as L.T.R. (Land Torrens System) 2008,” which they claimed “had been passed in violation of Samoa’s Constitution, by removing from it the constitutional prohibition against Customary Land alienation.” 

According to S.S.I. members though, it appears that Prime Minister Tuilaepa, had somehow evaded the issue in question, and instead he has “accused many of these people – including anonymous online bloggers – as some sorts of jokers who were off in the head.”

Said Tuilaepa: “These people are seeking financial gains which allow them to travel overseas to attend meetings, pertaining to issues of our lands.”

He did not name anyone in particular.

He also said: “These people are promoting the idea they are behind anonymous bloggers such as “O le Palemia” (O.L.P) and other anti-government blogs.

Tuilaepa went on to say: “These are the same people who are hiding behind the ‘Ole Palemia’, and I am happy to say that I will get to see their faces in public when they the march.”

“I know who they are. This is good as it will allow the public to know who these people are, who have been defaming and publicly criticising our people.”

That way, Tuilaepa said the protest march “would be is interesting.”

He also revealed: “Up to now, I have not received anything. They intend to go to the Malae o Tiafau - Tiafau Grounds - and currently the Parliament building is not completed.

“Maybe they’ll go and give their complaint to the roof of Parliament and maybe voice their concerns to the construction workers out there.

“So to me it’s clear they are off in the head.” 

He also said: “The way I see it, they should have brought their concerns directly to me, and then I would have told them to leave it with me. I would pass it on to the Attorney General for a legal opinion.”

“As for the gist of the complaint,” Tuilaepa said, “they have got it all wrong. The Torrens Land System is specifically for privately owned land.” 

In other words, “there is no need for a deed of ownership since the Torrens Land System, requires registration of land with the government.” 

Tuilaepa also said: “The explanation at the time was crystal clear by the government, and that was customary land would not be affected by the Torrens Land System.” 

He also said: “In the old system, unless the deed was provided, nothing could  be done about changing the ownership of land, despite the fact the money from the land sale had been used.

“That problem exists this very day.”

However, he also said that for the Torrens Land System work, “you have to register your name with the system and most governments now-a-days have utilised this system, such as New Zealand and Australia. 

“The Torrens system is specifically for the private owned land, but it does not apply to communal land, as this is prohibited under the Constitution. 

“That is why I am puzzled as to where these unfounded ideas come from.

“Remember these laws are put in place, after receiving clearance from the Attorney General. The law in question does not affect our customary land. 

“Prior to introducing any act, the Attorney General goes through the Bill thoroughly and the Attorney General is the only lawyer we listen to; this is mandated under the Constitution of Samoa.”

And so, returning to our headline on the front page of the Sunday Samoan of 3 December 2017, which declared: “P.M. laughs at protest march!”, we are quite  keen to happily remind that: He who laughs first laughs last!

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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