Just three days before Christmas – on 22 December 2016 - Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi shocked everyone with an astounding proclamation that revealed “a bill to amend the Constitution to define Samoa as a Christian State”, had been tabled in Parliament the day before.
Titled “Constitutional Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016,” the proposed amendment is apparently aimed at “inserting in the Constitution” the assumption that Samoa is a Christian nation and in doing so “declare the dominance of Christianity in Samoa.”
So why was everyone shocked?
First, because everyone knew then that freedom of religion was already enshrined anyway in Samoa’s Constitution as sacrosanct, inviolable, sacred.
Besides, Samoa being predominantly Christian ever since it became independent 46 years ago, even as other countries around the world have been embroiled in unstoppable turmoil and brutal wars all that time up to now, why is Prime Minister Tuilaepa worried about the sanctity of Christianity now?
Or is there method in thy madness that he is not letting everyone know about?
Second, since Samoa is a one-party government and the Human Rights Protection Party lorded over by Prime Minister Tuilaepa is that party, shouldn’t they be concentrating instead on making life a little bearable for the poor majority in this country who are living in utter squalor, even during these Christmas times?
Indeed, why are they wasting time, effort and money on that lousy amendment when all that Tuilaepa has to do is sign it, and then without ceremony have it passed into law anyway?
After all he is the law, isn’t he?
Anyway, what about freedom of religion that is enshrined in Samoa’s Constitution, where it clearly says:
11. Freedom of religion - (1) Every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in a community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
(2) Nothing in clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law in so far as that existing law or the law so made imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred under the provisions of that clause in the interests of national security or of public order, health or morals, or for protecting the rights and freedom of others, including their rights and freedom to observe and practice their religion without the unsolicited interference of members of other religions.
12. Rights concerning religious instruction - (1) No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction or take part in any religious ceremony or attend religious worship, if that instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.
(2) Every religious community or denomination shall have the right to establish and maintain educational institutions of its own choice and to provide therein religious instruction for pupils of that community or denomination.
(3) Nothing in clause (2) shall prevent the State from making any law requiring the inspection of educational institutions and the maintenance therein of standards in keeping with the general educational level in Samoa.
And so we repeat: “The aim of Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s Constitution Amendment is to declare the dominance of Christianity in Samoa.”
But then had it not been dominant all that time up to now?
So why is everyone shocked?
Please be kind enough and tell the rest what you think.
In the meantime, as for poverty and squalor in Tuilaepa’s Christian paradise, well that’s another disturbing ugliness that should have never been seen anywhere in this country anyway.
The other day, just a few days from Christmas, a slovenly-dressed old man was seen on the streets of Apia begging for money.
He told the Samoa Observer he was from Savai’i.
At age 62, he had apparently been admitted at the hospital in Apia for two weeks, and now he was asking people for some money so that he can pay for his fare back home for Christmas.
“I was hospitalized because of my leg,” he explained.” So I am here trying to find some money for my fare because I want to go back to Savai’i.”
He’s apparently asked his children to send him money for his fare but then he couldn’t wait for them any longer, which was why he was now begging on the streets of Apia.
He said: “I called them to send me some money for my fare. I have been here since morning and some people have given me money already but it’s not enough for my fare.
“I don’t have family in Apia but my sister’s children took care of me at the hospital. I have been here for too long. I want to go to Savai’i and spend Sunday there with my family and children.”
By the way, did not think about asking his government just down the road for some money to pay for his fare to Savaii? After all, it is his government, and it’s called the Human Rights Protection Party.
In other words, it is supposed to protect the human rights of its subjects just like him, so that he can be home with his family in Savaii during Christmas?
And so, let us say this one more time.
Uncontrolled bureaucratic corruption is the perennial scourge that is dragging this country deeper and deeper into the very dregs of poverty and violence, and whether or not you like it not even a change of the Constitution to “declare the dominance of Christianity in Samoa” can solve that little problem.
Only a complete elimination of bureaucratic corruption throughout the government can; and yes, only Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi can make that happen.