“Your time is done”: Archbishop to Samoa caretaker PM Tuilaepa

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The Archbishop of the Catholic Church, Alapati Lui Mataeliga, has used his mass on Monday to lash out at the Samoa Human Rights Protection Party(HRRP)-led caretaker Government and its leadership over the country’s constitutional crisis and warned the country is sliding into a dictatorship.

The leader of the second largest church in Samoa left no stone unturned in a fiery sermon – which not only touched on the current crisis triggered by the refusal by the caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi to concede defeat – but also last year’s controversial Land and Titles Court Bills which were passed in December.

Tuilaepa and a few of his HRPP members were present during the Archbishop’s sermon and were seated in the front row, not far from the altar of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, where the church leader gave his sermon.

Alapati decried the current state of the nation on the eve of the country marking Samoa’s 59 years of independence.

“There is no peace and there is no unison and it appears as if our forefather’s shed blood for no reason,” he said.

“This all comes down to government leaders fighting for power.”

The Archbishop then used the occasion to remind Government leaders that they are public servants and their calling is to serve Samoa.

“Without Samoa there will be no leaders and the people should be well aware of that, the power in which is being abused by these leaders was given to them by us, the members of the public,” he told the congregation.

He also appealed to the Government leaders to remember that they were voted in by the people and the same people can remove them from power.

“We are affected by [our leaders] abusing power due to high-minded and dictatorship and what’s happened now [ua pa le no’o],” he added.

“The heart of any democratic government is the constitution and the rule of law.

“The constitution outlines the rule of law and its purpose is to interpret and protect what stipulates under the law and what’s happening now, the constitution is broken with a number of amendments.

“There were also constitutional amendments that were expedited, this is despite the call from the public to reconsider.”

On the LTC.Bills, which were passed by a HRPP dominated Parliament last December despite local and international condemnation, Alapati said the Land and Titles Court Bill 2020, the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 and the Judicature Amendment Bill 2020 were “rushed” by the caretaker Government despite public opposition.

“These three bills that were rushed [in Parliament] by the current Government that have lost [in the election], as they have the power and did not listen to the public’s outcry [against these bills].

“Our constitution has lost its sacredness and the same applies to the law, it’s not being followed.”

The Archbishop also lamented the disregarding of the Courts’ judgements, which he said is one of the three pillars of Government in Samoa, and further questioned why the caretaker Government wanted to bring in overseas judges and lawyers to hear cases bringing further embarrassment to Samoa.

“Maybe they will also bring in overseas police officers and it is saddening this colonial rule as a result of actions by those in the greed for power,” he added.

“And power stinks and it will also kill you if you don’t know how to use it!”

Making reference to a quote made famous by English historian and politician Lord Acton, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, Alapati warned that Samoa is heading into a dictatorship, if the current crisis is any indication.

“And this is where our [caretaker] government is heading under dictatorship; it will not end well; the biggest concern is the impact on the members of the public,” he said.

The role of Samoa’s chiefs to intervene in the crisis also got a mention with the Archbishop urging them to intervene.

“I am not referring to the Tumua and Pule supporting HRPP or supporting FAST [Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi], but make a stand for Samoa as a whole.”

He added that if the chiefs across the country will not act the Catholic Church will take action out of love for Samoa and its people.

“The Catholic Church will make a stand; we will march in the country and will carry the cross and the word of God with prayers and hymns.”

Alapati also reminded the leader of FAST party Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and Tuilaepa of the importance of the Independence day and called for peace in the country.

“Stop this madness of dictatorship and being conceited and be humble,” he said.

The Archbishop also appealed to the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II to stand up and call for peace.

“Now is your time and had you spoken immediately after the election we would not have any problems we are facing now,” he said.

“I appeal to your Highness to do the right thing for Samoa.”

Alapati said Samoa revolves around peace and it has always been like that and also reached out to Samoans living abroad, saying: “I also call on the Samoans overseas to calm down and pray for peace.”

He added that every Samoan should pray for the country and seek God’s righteousness and referenced the famous Samoan proverb e tali I lagi sou malo [your kingdom will be from heaven].

“And the same principle should be applied here for us to wait for a new Government as our leaders cannot come to an amicable solution,” he said.

According to the Archbishop, at the height of the LTC Bills controversy, he wrote to the caretaker Prime Minister and asked him to step down.

“I have always supported him as he is the chosen son of the Church and we have always supported him in all his endeavors.

“I wrote to him asking why he doesn’t step down from office, his good works will follow him and I told him that someone should be groomed to take over his place, because you don’t live forever.

“And in response, Tuilaepa said there is no one that can take his place.”

Alapati then called out to the HRPP members to take heed of what Tuilaepa had said, adding it is “quite shocking that you all know Tuilaepa does not listen to anyone but you all continue down this stupid path anyway!”

“Your time is done,” the Archbishop said as the caretaker Prime Minister sat listening to his sermon.

Alapati also noted that Tuilaepa is “his spiritual son” and “a good son will listen to his spiritual father”.

The Samoa Observer has reached out to the caretaker Government’s Press Secretary for comments, in relation to the Archbishop’s comments about the caretaker Government and Tuilaepa during his sermon at Mulivai.

The Archbishop led the mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral at Mulivai on Monday to conclude ‘nine days of the novena’, which is an important Catholic tradition for the church’s faithful locally and abroad.

Meanwhile, Samoa’s head of state has called for reconciliation and forgiveness, in a bid to end the country’s political deadlock.

Tuimalealiifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi’s has provided his first public comments since he cancelled a scheduled sitting of parliament 10 days ago.

The FAST party, which has been unable to take office since winning April’s election, argues this was done to prevent it from forming government, forcing it to conduct its own ad-hoc swearing-in last Monday.

In his speech to mark independence day on Tuesday, the O le Ao o le Malo said only God can provide a solution to the impasse.

“We cannot achieve unity if we continue to reject reconciliation and the willingness to exercise forgiveness,” he said.

“My humble prayer is to seek and ask for God’s peace so that we can begin to forgive and start our journey towards healing and restoration of dignity and integrity to all three branches of government.

“For he alone selects our leaders and in him lie our hopes for a blessed government for Samoa now and into the future.”

The Head of State did not address his reasons for cancelling last week’s sitting of parliament, which he said in his proclamation would be provided “in due course.”.

SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS