In a recent court hearing in Samoa, the ‘local rag’ Samoa Observer has Counterclaimed $2m offering a ‘dodgy’ defence document containing outright lies and more. This concludes (for the moment) a sorry saga in the history of Samoan journalism. I first blogged about this in 2013 when I effectively called the owner and Editor-in-Chief, Savea Sano Malifa, a fool. He has now proved himself to be an unethical businessman (in simple words, a crook) and thus by extension his newspaper two-faced hypocrites. While this operation is high profile and pontificates extensively over moral issues, they are actually a danger to the Samoan business community. Others who have likewise been ripped off should take a good look at this development and seriously consider commencing their own litigation, for exposure and court cases seems to have their attention. And yes, there are certainly more than me who have been stung by these people!
Savea Sano Malifa is the owner of Samoa Observer, the largest newspaper in Samoa. The company is called The Samoa Observer Company (Apia) Limited and was registered on 22 March 1993 with the directors Jean Malifa and Sano Malifa. You can see this from the Samoan companies register online (enter Samoa Observer and click on the Company name for the directors). This makes them one of the longest standing companies in Samoa. Their shareholding is split 51% Sano, 48% his wife Jean and 1% Ieti Lima giving Sano a controlling interest, his wife ‘almost’ half ownership and Ieti a nominal directorship (I am guessing that Ieti most likely has a professional role).
Their publication Samoa Observer runs daily six days a week and their Sunday paper is called the Sunday Samoan. While there are a couple of smaller publications, Samoa Observer is the biggest and most long-serving newspaper. Reading their words as I have for six years, one would think that they are the moral police of Samoan politics and are above reproach. “Your award winning newspaper” is their marketing meme.
Savea is Sano’s Matai** title name and he has assumed a self-appointed watchdog role for himself and his newspaper, with a long and well-recognised track record in calling mainly the government of the day to account for shady deals, corruption, waste and so on.
On 5 October 2012, I invited myself to Sano’s office (the sign above his door reads quite delightfully, “Editor-in-Chief”) and offered my writing services. We discussed this and other things for an hour or more and eventually agreed to a deal – I would write a weekly article for him/his newspaper and he would place daily classified advertisements for me in the Samoa Observer.
Essentially, despite multiple reminders, Samoa Observer failed to deliver as agreed, whereas I did – in fact I over-delivered.
When called to account, Sano basically told me to p*ss-off and ‘sing’ for any recompense. After a couple more attempts to resolve the matter calling upon his good nature and appeals to natural justice, I blogged about his foolishness, left the matter for quite a while, then when nothing eventuated, I sued him.
A full copy of my Affidavit can be viewed online which includes all the gory details, opinion, facts, evidence, timelines . . . all the details that were before the judge when he considered the matter. I have removed personal email addresses but the rest remains as presented to the court.
The Legal Process
I issued a Letter of Demand to Samoa Observer and served it on the company on 21 July 2015.
I prepared the appropriate court documents myself without the assistance of any lawyer. I completed these, paid the nominal $20.00WST filing fee, obtained a hearing date at the District Court in Mulinu’u and then served the Ordinary Summons on Samoa Observer. Unusually, I also supplied Samoa Observer my thirty page Affidavit complete with all the evidence a week prior to the hearing – so that there would be no surprises for him or his legal team at the hearing.
At the first hearing (01 September 2015), Samoa Observer’s lawyer requested an adjournment for a more detailed statement of claim. Hmmmm! Despite my protestation that they had had it all for over a week, the judge granted their request and adjourned the hearing for one week. I obliged with their request, supplying her and the court a more detailed statement of claim – a legal lesson learned!
At the second hearing (08 September 2015), Samoa Observer’s lawyer requested another adjournment to prepare a statement of defense and counterclaim. She and the judge agreed to another adjournment, this time for two weeks. It seems that adjournments are standard stuff in Samoan legal system. Tedious but whatever . . . I’ve got all the time in the world and you need it here!
At the third hearing (22 September 2015), Samoa Observer’s lawyer failed to appear. The judge was puzzled and asked me to wait while the court attempted to contact the lawyer to remind her about the hearing and/or to call her to the court. At the end of the court session all matters had been dealt with except mine and Samoa Observer’s lawyer still hadn’t appeared. The judge shrugged his shoulders as if to say he couldn’t do anything (or couldn’t work out what was happening) and adjourned the matter for another week.
At the fourth hearing (29 September 2015), Samoa Observer’s lawyer apologised and explained that the previous week she had got busy with another case and “forgot”. The judge bought this ‘cock-and-bull’ story hook line and sinker and then issued her with another week so that she could “take instructions from her client in order to prepare a defence and counterclaim. [This was nonsense because to believe this one has to believe that a lawyer “forgot” for a whole two weeks then didn’t do anything for another whole week after she “forgot” and apologised to the court! Whatever . . . she got the delays she wanted, although has shown the world her true colours in the process . . .
Here’s an open letter to the man himself. Obviously I don’t think much of his integrity.
The Open Letter
Today a judge of the Samoan District Court has awarded your company the right to hear our matter of dispute in the Supreme Court because of your Counterclaim for a gazillion bucks. I’ve blogged about this elsewhere but I want to remind you of the reason for all of this legal stuff and explain why I’m not interested in your Counterclaim in the slightest. It means nothing to me whether you win or lose for I, unlike you are not driven by money. I, unlike you are a man of principle. I, unlike you am only interested in the truth.
The truth Sano, is that you (technically your company) owes me following:
- Our business agreement;
- Your breach of contract;
- Your failure to rectify matters; and
- In consideration of the facts as I presented to him in the court case I initiated, specifically in my detailed Affidavit dated (24 August 2015).
In our first conversation you indicated that there were two things that you wanted to achieve by our doing business together:
a) To get people to think; and
b) For you to avoid getting sued.
I believe that we have together achieved the first goal with style, however we have failed spectacularly with the second objective.
While I will take the bulk of the credit for the first achievement with seventeen articles of original thought (about Samoa) and multiple blog posts (about you and your company) published and yet to be published, you must take full credit for the second matter.
For over two years, sir, I have read your editorials with a smirk on my face knowing that the Internet informed are fully aware that your words of condemnation of various corrupt officials and processes has been a case of ‘the pot calling the kettle black’. I cringe. You, sir, lack credibility, and in common language are nothing more than a hypocrite.
Furthermore I draw your attention to the recent words of your own Editor, Mata’afa Keni Lesa when he gave good counsel that the truth will ALWAYS ‘out’ in the end:
“But know this, nothing can be hidden forever. Those people will eventually be found out for what they really are. It might not happen right away but it will. You just stay the course and you continue doing what you are doing.”
The context was his talking about evil people and how we can all learn and grow through experiences, good and bad. I concur with the latter sentiment but don’t agree with his phrase “evil people” for people are not evil – they, like you, simply CHOOSE evil – usually because of pride.
A chain is only as strong as the weakest link and your dealing with me is a broken link in your chain of ethics. Your treatment of my account and me personally is a disgrace to the proud name, culture, history and people of Samoa. Your arrogance in the face of a guest of your country simply standing up for what is right brings the worst of Samoa to the light of day. You; your wife; your children and theirs; the people of your employ at Samoa Observer; those who have fed you gossip sufficient that you have chosen to conduct yourself in such an unethical manner; the people of your villages and indeed the entire population of Samoa should be grossly ashamed of your conduct.
Let me be specific Sano. Why would I ever wish to involve myself, or recommend to any of my friends or business partners in anything to do with Afega knowing that you hold a most senior leadership position in the village under the Gatoaitele title? It’s a rhetorical question of course – naturally and sure, perhaps to your great delight, I simply wouldn’t!
If you were a man of integrity, you would look me in the eye and apologise, face-to-face. I venture to suggest though that based on your conduct towards me over the last two years, that this will never occur and if it does, it will only be under threat of village council action or as a result of adversity as the shame you have brought to the above-mentioned brings you to a conclusion that it is in your best business interests to deal with me in an ethical manner.
I now refer back to our original conversation in which I offered to help you from the outset, with anything strategic, for I enjoy helping others think issues through. Unlike you, some respect me and listen to my advice. They generally appreciate it, often later and not in the heat of the moment, but I give you my advice now again, none-the-less . . .
Even though you/your people dropped the ball spectacularly with me, you clearly run an effective business. I respect you (and your team) for that.
I understand from my research into you and your business that you have a chequered history with some notable successes such as awards, the capacity to survive in a difficult political environment, and more.
I have also observed some excellent social work achieved through your business.
You, however, have a personality that controls through fear as well as having a distinct lack of integrity. This is a dangerous mix which will ensure that you will always rise to positions of influence in whatever endeavour you so choose BUT it is simultaneously your Achilles Heel for your high achieving personality with a character flaw such as you have opens you up to exposure when threatened with the truth. It will also lead you into conflict situations more than is necessary (like with me). You will need to deal with this before you can achieve lasting constructive change in situations of conflict. Character is a million times more lasting than words, even that of an accomplished wordsmith like yourself.
What is to me the most obnoxious thing about your conduct towards me is actually not that you are arrogant or have ripped me off, it is that you have placed yourself above others in your society and you have and will shock them when they find out that their guardian angel, even a bastion of the truth and someone they mostly trusted is actually no more trustworthy than the ones your opinionated, sarcastic and caustic pen attacks. I know this, not because I guess this or want this to be the case, but because the people whom I have mentioned this all too tell me as much. Indeed as the truth gets out to more in your society, I predict that your credibility will (as I believe it should) take a serious hit.
Note also that the Internet is where it is all at now Sano, not print media like your newspaper. My website is indexed by Googlebot hourly and any vanity search you do will show you what the world can see about you inside seconds. Search for Savea Sano Malifa in one simple click and shudder at the knowledge that the world is viewing my words about you more and faster and more permanently than your own – and that they have been doing this since less than an hour after I published the original story.
As I mentioned in my first blog post about you, you have been led by Samoan sensibilities (aka gossip) rather than doing the basic due diligence in regards to me. This has likely been the cause of this exposure as the hypocrite and arrogant fool that I believe that you are.
I finish with some words of advice from the Good Book:
- There will likely be others that you and your company have ripped off who will take heart from this event (and no doubt subsequent events) that will commence their own action against you and your company. Jesus gave good counsel to settle with a creditor before being shamed in court***. I think that you should humble yourself and learn this lesson from this event. Yes, even at your age it is still technically possible to admit an error and learn something. Settle with them Sano before it goes to court if this ever happens, for repeating adverse publicity like this could become extremely embarrassing to you, your company and the inheritance you leave online for your loved ones when you are gone.
- Forgiveness in a biblical sense is different from the Samoan interpretation of forgiveness. Biblical forgiveness means that we forgive before God but this does not mean that we need to forget, nor should we forget for that matter – often to the contrary. The Samoan way to forgive and pretend that the matter is dealt with permanently with a mere formality is NOT a correct biblical interpretation of forgiveness even though it is a cultural norm here. Regardless of whether your company pays its debt to me or not, I forgive you in a biblical sense**** but the matter is still unresolved until YOU humble yourself and convince me that your apology means something and you clear your account. Every time you avoid me in public and my name comes to your attention, rest assured that your conscience will surely continue to trouble you, for you have wronged another and not rectified the matter. I will not let any amount of Samoan huff and puff or $2m negate this reality for you, Sano.
- Pride was the root cause of the original sin and has been the downfall of mankind ever since. I believe that you are ‘up yourself’ and that I have simply shown the world your real nature. Having heard my story of engagement with you and your company, more than one other has spoken of you in these same terms (arrogance/rip-off etc), thus I know that while your conduct with me may be racially or personally driven, it is not the first time you have screwed another person in business – certainly according to them. Like you said of me in your obnoxious and condescending email, I now say it of you “Now I believe”. The difference between us however is that I have proved my case with evidence. You haven’t and (I posit) can’t for I always shoot straight – always.
I recommend that you take a good hard look at your conduct in both your commercial operation to find ways to properly enable your staff (you will not get the best from them when they fear you like they do), and in your personal life to get to a point that others can trust you, not because you have been granted the privilege of Chiefhood, not because of your past achievements at nailing, or your current power to nail others through your written words or through legal processes, but because of who you are.
Dennis A. Smith
Author & Investigative Blogger
Savea Sano Malifa’s Ethical Response
If Sano was a true Samoan Chief and/or a man of ethics/integrity he would reply:
You are correct in all matters.
It is a brave man who speaks as you do – straight – especially in Samoa, and in public, and to someone like myself.
I will rectify the outstanding matter and apologise to you in person for my attitude and conduct which does not meet Samoan chiefly or indeed Biblical standards.
Savea Sano Malifa
So . . .
Needless to say, I don’t think much of the man or his business and the pua’a**** are all fed, watered and ready to fly!
I will update this post with any future developments.
Sano, you really did deserve to have been put in my Hall of Shame way back when. There’s a lot more to come too from this quarter too as I continue to talk to the world more about you and your company . . . standby.
- Savea Sano Malifa - Fooled by Gossip - the orginal post exposing Sano's foolish reliance on gossip
- Samoa Observer Sues Blogger for $2m - My initial notice following lodgement of Samoa Observer's Defence & Counterclaim
- Samoa Observer’s Dodgy Defence - Analysis of SA's document showing lies, twisting & logical fallacies
- Blogger Sues Samoa Observer - My [first] case against SA, the one that triggered their defamation case
- Open Letter – Samoa Observer - Telling it like it is!
- Observations on Samoa Observer - One example of SA's immoral conduct [theft]
- Suing Samoa Observer - An offer to help anyone anywhere sue SA
- MEDIA RELEASE: Samoa Observer Sues $2m - Media Release summarising the defamation case
- The Two Million Tala Palagi - The Book, contains all documents, web posts, the original articles and commentary
- Warning to lawyer Rosella V Papalii - Open Letter to Samoa Observer's lawyer discussing legal, moral and personal issues relating to the case.