Leeches? Time to move on

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The truth is simple enough. The public outrage among the Pacific community all over the world following Heather du Plessis-Allan’s “leeches” attack on Pacific countries is justified. 

It is not okay for anyone to abuse a privileged position in the media to demean and insult anyone else – or in this case an entire group of people – for whatever reason. 

Folks, freedom of expression is one thing, abusing it is quite another. Such freedom should be exercised with care and responsibility. It is not a license to abuse and misuse. 

If anything, the comment that has brewed up a storm shows Heather du Plessis-Allan’s lack of understanding of the Pacific context, ignorance of everyday realities in this part of the world, and at worst downright racism. 

Now we don’t want to head down that path of racism, especially in relation to the person who called the Pacific Islands leeches. 

We believe enough has been said about that on many different forums. Besides, two wrongs don’t make a right, so hurling back insults in response, is not going to resolve anything. 

As Pacific people, we are better than that.

What clearly needs to happen is for Ms. du Plessis-Allan to be given an education about the Pacific context, our people and our relationship with Australia, New Zealand and all our donor partners. 

The simple truth is that it is not a one-way street. Whether it’s the United States, China, Russia or whoever. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

If anything, those countries need us just as we need them. For many different reasons. A lot has been said about votes at international forums and what those votes mean to New Zealand and Australia, which perhaps Ms. du Plessis-Allan doesn’t understand.

Then there is the fact that these Pacific Islands is where New Zealand is making a lot of money in terms of the goods they are selling. A lot of it are basically waste they want to get rid of, things like mutton flaps and others that have contributed to our poor health indicators. What about the vehicles that are dumped on our shores annually? There is so much more. And we haven’t even started talking about New Zealand’s number religion, rugby and how Pacific countries have served as the backbone for New Zealand Rugby over the years. 

We can go on but we won’t. 

We reckon enough has been said.

See, all the opinions expressed – ranging from Oscar Knightley, Dame Luamanuvao Winnie Laban and everyone abroad and in Samoa who has contributed to this discussion – are valuable opinions. We hope Ms. du Plessis–Allan takes time to read them and educate herself. 

As for the calls for her to apologise, well, that’s not necessary in our humble opinion. If she finds it in her heart to recant, good on her. If she doesn’t, remember what goes around comes around. 

Besides, in Samoa, we’ve heard worst from our leaders. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa for instance is on the media every week calling people all sorts of names ranging from “idiots” and “fools” to “stinking pigs” and “dogs.”

We cannot recall anyone of all these wonderful people, who have become so upset with Ms. du Plessis-Allan, demanding an apology from him.

The point is that, what’s been said is a thing from the past. 

We’re pretty sure Ms. du Plessis-Allan got the message loud and clear from the Pacific community – in that what she said is unacceptable. 

And now, it’s time to move on.

We’ve got much bigger issues to deal with. Try addressing corruption, abuse of power, climate change, health issues and many more. Now that’s the stuff we want to talk about.

What do you think?

Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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