PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
LOOKING BACK ON SAMOA’S TERRIBLY WONDERFUL YEAR
By Savea Sano Malifa
APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Jan. 2, 2010) – Now in retrospect we can’t help thinking 2009 was such a terribly wonderful year in Samoa. At times it has also been terribly painful. And yet somehow we all enjoyed the rough ride and we are all still here.
Over the last twelve months we were inundated with formidable challenges. And yet for some weird reason we did not buckle under. Like a silly vagabond brawler we simply picked ourselves up, licked our wounds, and moved on.
Along the way we learned to smile when there was pain, laugh when it was impossible to stop the tears, hit the wall when sight is blurred and we became visionless.
Life, as we have all now come to agree, is such a wonderful learning experience.
This morning as we sit down and think backwards, we are amazed we’ve made it this far; indeed there isn’t a whiff of a complaint from anyone, and as we look up we see that even the sun has not forgotten to rise at dawn to light up the world.
Today is a new beginning. Up ahead hurdles galore are waiting. We are anxious but we do not waver or slow down, neither do we question the reason for this terrible journey.
We do neither of these because this is where we belong; this is our world, our home. It is ours to treasure, protect, and keep up, and all the people who live in it are our collective responsibility.
This is what this life is all about. It is about being together under one terrible roof laughing at the fickleness of our happiness, giggle at the silliness of our dreams as we nurse our eternal illnesses.
To be sure last year was a bummer of a year. Some of the most tenacious challenges mankind had ever seen were seen last year.
Indeed, as we’ve all been expecting, the road switch easily topped the list of the government’s infamous inventions. It was decidedly the most ill-conceived policy any government had ever put together.
Not only was the country divided by it with national unity threatening to self-destroy as everyone was looking on, the switch was also blamed for everything unusually bizarre happening at the time.
Two of them were the image of Virgin Mary appearing on the Congregational Christian Church complex on Beach Road, and the terrible tsunami that killed many and disfigured Aleipata badly.
And as we should all remember today widespread finger-pointing took place then as imaginations ran wild. In what seemed to be divinely inspired the road switch, Virgin Mary’s image, and the tsunami were linked and accusations flew.
Even the switch’s principal architect Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was not spared. He was accused of being a dictator for allegedly bamboozling the switch through without giving people the chance to say what they thought of it.
And then when the tsunami struck he became the proverbial sacrificial lamb especially since Aleipata is his district, and his home village of Lepa was badly damaged.
Even tourism was whacked in the face. As the government’s pet scheme, it was lambasted for its operators’ apparent failure to observe Sunday as the day of worship. Instead they had shut their eyes to their moral obligations and turned Sunday into a day of money-worshipping and ill-repute.
For sure the government would have felt the pain. That was three months ago. And yet early this week during a visit to that part of the country we were troubled that the pain is still very much there.
So that from what we saw we now believe it is possible that Aleipata will remain disfigured for a very long time. Now the question that arises is: Where have the millions of dollars in aid gone?
Up on the hills where families made homeless by the tsunami have moved, life looks miserable. They are living in broken houses, tiny tents incapable of keeping the rain out, shacks reminiscent of life in the distant past we all don’t want to think about.
We repeat; it is now three months since the tsunami has struck and once again the question arises: Where have the millions of dollars in aid gone?
Christmas is gone, the year 2010 has arrived, and yet the people of tsunami-dispossessed Aleipata are still living in shameful shacks.
Let’s hope then the plans by Tuilaepa’s government to help build houses up there for them are implemented soon. The trick though is not to repeat the same foul-ups as we did in the past.
We remember though that after the road switch was implemented peacefully Tuilapea said these words: "We have all witnessed the grace of God upon us on the first day of the switch. I would like to thank the whole of Samoa for their support."
But now is not the time for words. Action, not words, is desperately needed.
We say this since that was one of the few times the PM appeared cautious not to allow his arrogance to muck up everybody’s day. We know his arrogant propensity to challenge and antagonize are his strengths as well as his foibles.
However his major strength is his unwavering belief in himself. He believes he is a visionary so that whatever decision he makes cannot be questioned by anyone.
Many years ago he envisioned being prime minister and he has since achieved that.
Then having dedicated himself to the road switch he has also now achieved that, although with warps and all.
When he thanked the nation after the road switch was implemented he made it clear to everyone that he had now etched his footprint in history.
"(I want to express my) special thanks to all the servants of God for their prayers," he said. "This new era in the history of Samoa (would have been impossible without them)."
And with the support of those prayers his confidence grew, and it is continuing to grow. Well then, what might his next vision be?
Let’s hope this blind dedication of his will not inspire him once again to drag this country along in the insolent mud of sadness as he’s embarking on another potentially blood-spilling, terrible vision.
Have a Very Prosperous New Year Samoa, God bless.
Savea Sano Malifa is editor-in-chief of the Samoa Observer.
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