On 13 September 2017, the Samoa Observer published a story that looked profoundly perplexing, so that the first thought that came to mind was that perhaps someone, somewhere had made a silly mistake.
Titled “Head of Immigration explains diplomatic passport denial,” it revealed that the government had rejected an application that had been made by the former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, and Her Highness Filifilia Tamasese, for diplomatic passports.
Asked for a comment, the Head of Immigration and the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo, said the decision was in line with government policies governing such passports.
He said: “I am responding in accordance to policies and regulations in place for government officials when it comes to this issue.”
“There are regulations which govern the issuance of diplomatic passport that are mainly for government officials,” he said.
“For example, the Head of States, Council of Deputies, Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister.
“From the beginning, it is policy that once the official no longer holds the position, the government cancels the diplomatic passport.”
“The reason the passport is canceled is that it goes together with the designation,” he said. “This same practice applies to the official passports for the C.E.O. position.”
“Once you are no longer the C.E.O. the official passport will also be cancelled.
“This is the normal practice; once the official title is cancelled it’s likewise for the diplomatic passports.
“This however does not apply to the regular passports, once the official passport is cancelled the regular passport is still valid which he or she can use anywhere in the world.”
“The former Head of State did not wish to comment on the matter.”
On 26 September 2017, another story about “passports” was published in the Samoa Observer.
This time, under the headline “Passport allegations referred to Immigration”, it said: “The Immigration Office has been asked to look into allegations that someone is ‘selling Samoan passports’ online, and to as far away as places as Africa.”
It goes on to say: “The allegation is contained in an email from one ‘Joanna Slewion,’ who claimed” that whoever was selling Samoan passports “had even fooled me to send my 1000 U.S. dollars to him and he was going to give me the passport to go to Europe.”
Now talking about the person who is alleged to be selling Samoan passports overseas, ‘Joanna Slewion’s email said: “He has been processing Samoa Apia passports for others and they have used it to travel to Europe.
“I asked him for my money back and he refuses to do so, so I contacted Immigration. I have not got my money from him.”
And so once again, the Government’s Chief Executive Officer of Passports, Agafili Shem Leo, was asked for a comment.
At the time though, Agafili was not in Samoa. He had left the country the week before, the Samoa Observer was told.
In any case, here’s another relevant story that is also quite interesting, if not more so. It’s about the salaries of senior government officials
Titled “Government administration salaries cost $9.22 million” and published in the Samoa Observer 27 September 2017, it’s about the salaries of senior government officials in the financial year 2017-2018.
And guess what?
The current Head of State, His Highness Tui A’ana Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aleto’a Sualauvi II, is the highest paid official today with a base salary of $203,855, and a total of $315,180 is allocated for the base salaries of the three Members of the Councils of Deputies.
As for the Executive Branch of government, an amount of $1.92 million has been set aside for their salaries.
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is paid $193,602.
Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, gets $153,831 with $12,000 in allowances.
The salaries of the other 11 Cabinet Ministers total $1.57million including allowances; their base salaries are $132,000.
As for Members of Parliament, $5.54 million is allocated for their salaries, with Mr Speaker, Leaupepe Tole’afoa Fa’afisi, getting paid a measly $139,325 and Deputy Speaker, Nafoitoa Misa Talaimanu, taking home $103, 407.
And so it goes on.
Still, now that it’s been explained publicly how these millions of Tala in public funds are being expended, the question that sticks out refusing to go away is: What about the former Head of State, His Highness, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi?
All he wants is a diplomatic passport.
And the way we see it, he deserves one – and even a second one for Her Highness – so that they can travel together somewhere far, far away, whenever the need to cry tears of pain, arises!
As for the government’s Chief Executive Officer, Agafili Shem Leo, insisting that all he was doing was follow the law, the question that comes promptly to mind is: What law is he talking about here?
Is he still not aware that laws in this country today are malleable because they are meant to be broken, since the governing Human Rights Protection Party lorded over by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, is indeed the law?
And so we repeat!
All that Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi is asking for is a diplomatic passport. It would be too cruel to deny him that wish knowing well, that his name had not once been tarnished during the years, he’d been occupying that office.
Just a diplomatic passport.