The Human Cost of Samoan Pride

The Smith family, ripped apart with the Banning of a Blogger. I attribute this injustice to the Samoan pride exemplified by a cowardly Prime Minister afraid of the revelations in the book Corruption in Samoa

The Smith family in happier times, now ripped apart with the Banning of a Blogger. I attribute this injustice to the ‘Samoan pride’ exemplified by a cowardly Prime Minister afraid of the revelations in the book Corruption in Samoa.

I share here the human cost of Samoan pride, specifically that of the Samoan Prime Minister, Tuila’epa, also the Minister of Immigration, who in 2016 Banned a Blogger from Samoa, me! The Smith family, a newly married cross-cultural unit has been decimated as a result of one proud man, the leader of a country hell-bent on looking good, and avoiding shame, who seemingly fears revelations of his true immoral conduct. The reason for my expulsion I’ve recently shared . . . the book Corruption in Samoa, one section relating to his ‘inappropriate’ relationship with his CEO of Tourism. This scandal should rock the proud country of Samoa, one that claims to be founded upon the Christian God. Be strong as you read of the pain and devastation that has occurred at the hands of Samoan arrogance.

 

The Samoan spirit is an awesome thing to watch. The passion and pride that a Samoan demonstrates is something else. Put a rugby ball into any Samoan’s hands, say, “Go!” and there is nothing on this planet that will stop him!

When it comes to standing up for Samoan pride (known within Samoan circles as Samoa mo [for] Samoa) the enormously awe-inspiring passion and pride is rivaled only by the Maori, and more recently the All Blacks with their haka. Put a Samoan and a Tongan together, and they’ll laugh, play and dance as brothers but lubricate them just enough for an insult to occur and there will surely be blood on the floor. The Samoan pride will have struck again!

In Q1, 2011, an event occurred in which the Prime Minister of Samoa instructed the SWAP Foundation to proceed with a proposal to market Samoa, and develop an international Samoa Day. More on that elsewhere. This project was scuppered by Sonja Hunter, CEO of the Samoa Tourism Authority who had and has a serious snitch on me personally. I think know that she feels that I’m a threat!

ctd-analysing-the-samoan-tourism-crisisShe’s actually right, for unlike her, I am no Samoan bureaucrat; I shoot straight and don’t play politics; am real, trustworthy, know my stuff and cannot be bought. Read my free eBook Connecting the Dots – Analysing the Samoan Tourism Crisis if you want to see the evidence of predictive wisdom. As one recent online commenter said, “You are SPOT ON!”

For five months my wife at the time and I visited the Prime Minister to report our frustrations that Sonja was obfuscating and clearly wouldn’t work with us. Eventually in a disgusting display of political cowardliness, the PM sided with his ‘girl’ and gave us the *rse card. Bye bye SWAP. There is more to this story in the book Corruption in Samoa, which I will of course be publishing in due course.

While this was unfair and a commercial breach of contract because of an inappropriate ‘close’ relationship with his CEO (one that cost us dearly and almost destroyed the SWAP Foundation at its outset BTW) I did not respond immediately. I was a guest in a foreign country; the PM was a powerful man; I felt it inappropriate to do anything about it and so I went away for a few years with my tail between my legs. I kept a low profile and just absorbed the culture, learning and doing what I could to fulfill the aims of the Charitable Trust, which was to “lift Samoa”, particularly on the Internet.

cover-600-corruption-in-samoaIn Q1, 2015 however the time had come when I was ready to take on the injustices that I, my family and our Foundation had suffered. I wrote a book designed as a warning shot across the bows of the Prime Minister. Until recently I have been VERY careful that nobody on this planet has seen it or read it – not any editors, friends, family, person or entity has a copy of it or has read it . . . except for the Prime Minister himself.

He saw red, not over the examples of corruption that I gave and discussed in the book about the Samoan Police, not the Ombudsman; not even his own department but the one thing that ticked him off was revelations of what happened between him and Sonja (his ‘girl’) and me.

His responses, are in the book. I’ve quoted him in it for he has threatened court action. He told me that I had a lot to learn about Samoa and referred to the contents of the book as a whole bunch of “bull….!”

At last, I had this man’s attention. He could easily handle political corruption it seemed, but at a personal level it seemed to me that he was very touchy about what people knew and thought about him.

I didn’t back down in the face of Prime Ministerial anger and the threat, but instead against all advice to the contrary (which was to just shut up and suck it up, for he was a VERY powerful man; that my life or body and certainly my capacity to stay in Samoa would be at stake) I stood up to his bullying. I informed him very clearly that I would be publishing the book; that I had given him prior opportunity to read it and correct anything that was incorrect; that he had spoken with disrespect to a guest in his country (a hugely offensive act in Samoan culture); that I DID know and understand the Samoan culture VERY well but that it was him who had a lot to learn about me, and signed off inviting him to sit down and talk the issues through like a man.

He didn’t, of course.

This is the flip side of the Samoan pride. It brings the best out in a sportsman or in war or in a display of Samoan culture, but it also brings the worst out when turned against a threat.

Despite the rhetoric, self promotion and delusions of its pontificating leaders, Samoa is a small inherently insecure country that feels the desperate need to show off and to present itself for what it isn’t. I find this sad, because the Samoan people and culture can be amazing. The weather is a tropical pleasure, and the people all smile and welcome guests with genuine honour, but underneath the surface people are the same across the globe, and the Samoan pride shows its ugly head very quickly, especially when foreigners (like me) dare to criticise, and especially if the locals are ever held to account.

I am not the first Palagi to get booted out of the country and lose all, not by a long shot for I know of many others that have gone there and left without the shirt on their backs. Such is life. We all make mistakes and Samoa has the capacity to gain what others have for their own benefit down to a fine art – if you know what I mean!

What is different however for the Prime Minister and me is, as I have constantly warned him, the power of the Internet, and specifically when in the hands of a capable blogger, someone who knows and understands how things really work nowadays. I do. Tuila’epa (or just “Tui” as he’s invited me to call him) doesn’t. The other thing is that I am ruthless to find and speak the truth . . . long-suffering and patient, but like a bulldog with a bone, I never give up, ever, when I am on a case.

Politicians come and go. As Billy Shakes said years ago, they come on the stage, strut their stuff and then move off into the darkness. It makes them feel good and a few cheerleaders hang in there with them if there is something in it for them but at the end of the day it’s all a game. Politics is this for Tui. He toys with the media, and plays musical chairs with his human resources. He plays politics on the international scene to weasel grants and donations and opportunities for his country, then opens buildings and churches and businesses and makes a few people happy. But it’s all a game.

Enter Dennis though . . . and I don’t and didn’t play the game. I shot and shoot straight. I say what I mean and mean what I say. My word is my bond and I play for keeps.

I knew that there was a good chance, one I assessed as 40:60 that the PM would boot me out of the country; the 60% being the lesser likelihood that he would actually do it. I actually thought that his better half would find a way to work the issues through eventually, but I was proved wrong in that. I assessed that there was a 10% chance that I would get ‘done over’ physically (even though another outspoken Palagi got the local ‘treatment’ and had an extended stay in hospital) and a 1% chance that I would end up paying the ultimate price for speaking up. I considered this all a risk worth taking. If I ever went back to Samoa I would consider the risk of physical violence in the order of 80-90% probability and losing my life totally would now up to 10%*, and it could get worse depending on what happens upon publication of the book, Corruption in Samoa.

This then, is the background to my personal scrap with the PM of Samoa, and sets the scene for me sharing some of the incredible human cost of his (and his team’s) Samoan pride.

The Human Cost

The first loss and the toughest was that Veve, my wife and our three children have lost a father and a husband.

I’ve buried two of my own children. I’ve been betrayed by my various wives over the years and I can hack it, but when you understand the circumstances around our marriage and relationship, it makes the Immigration Minister’s banning order look nothing short of pure evil.

For two years I traipsed the country looking for a Samoan girl who “just wanted a Palagi” and to have a family. I wanted a second family, and thinking that as I had been in Samoa for seven years that I was going to be buried there, it was only natural to marry local. Eventually I did.

Veve was different from all the money-hungry girls that viewed the Palagi as an opportunity to provide for their family (a cultural norm in Samoa). She simply said, “I just want someone to love me and my kids, that’s all!” For such a short time, we lived together as man and wife, children learning to speak English, getting used to having a Dad and the Palagi ways.

A call from Immigration to visit them on the 2nd of September however changed all.

“You have to go.”

“Yes, yes, yes. I have organised to take my entire family to NZ on the 1st December when the airline tickets are cheap!”

“No you have to go sooner than that!”

“Oh OK . . . well I’ve got a Supreme Court hearing on the 12th October, and other court matters so I’ll then go in mid October”.

“Actually you have to go now . . . ”

“What literally now?”

“Yes, but you can always apply for your Temporary Permit and then return. It takes ten working days to process, but we can do it in five days so your wife is not left alone with the kids in the plantation” [paraphrased].

Wow! Monday I departed, the next working day, just sufficient to grab some cash and get someone to handle things while I was away.

But it was all a lie. This was a preplanned ruse to have me out of the country by deceit, for as I have already blogged about, the ACEO of Immigration had the day before informed all the transport operators that I was a PROHIBITED IMMIGRANT and that I was to be refused entry to Samoa.

The human cost to this cowardly betrayal was huge. I had left virtually everything I owned in Samoa, never had a chance to say goodbye to even my dogs let alone dozens of friends, wandering off thinking that I’d be seeing my wife and family in a week or so once the application had been processed, yet all the while the die cast . . . this was to be final and a total loss of everything I owned, a family ripped apart

There are two aspects to the events of my Banning that need attention drawn to . . . the first is the act by the decision-maker. He’s running scared and for whatever reason wanted me out of the country. So be it. I won’t be returning any time soon even if he paid me to, for I’d never get out in one piece, so I’m rebuilding my life in another country at his instruction. He’s a big man. He has made some big calls in his time. Booting a Bogger out of Samoa may end up being the biggest mistake he’s ever made or it might just be like he’s flicked a flea off his back. Time will tell . . . but the second aspect of this event though is the HOW of what happened.

This is where it hurts and why pride is ALWAYS so ugly. In a Christian context we say that sin has huge consequences. It takes us further than we ever imagined; it lasts a lot longer and it costs a lot more than we thought at the time. Samoa’s arrogance in dealing with me is manifest in the cowardly way that the Prime Minister dealt with his indiscretions when confronted; his attempt to conceal his actual involvement as the ultimate decision-maker, and in his peoples’ deliberate deception to achieve the Old Man’s stated objective.

I’ve already shown the documents to prove that the ACEO was brazenly dishonest in his conduct. I am VERY sure that he didn’t expect me to work it all out! There’s more that I can share about this one but it will affect people close to me so I can’t speak openly about it but rest assured that the Samoan pride has cost me and my family a lot of heartache.

One could be excused for thinking that perhaps this may be only just one bad story and that life is not like this in the rest of Samoa. The phrase typically used by the locals when this sort of thing is exposed is the panacea, “Oh not all Samoans are like that!” often with the associated tut-tut-tutting that what happened was “very bad” and “brings Samoa into disrepute”.

I’ve lived in Samoa for seven years, and rest assured that Samoa IS like that and that racism, lies, self-interest and greed are widespread, literally a social norm.

Let me tell you a little more about the human cost of what happens when Samoans get all huffy puffy about offences to their sensitivities . . . Behind the scenes, my wife Veve was reporting that all the cockroaches around were bad-mouthing her husband. He’s a bad man. He’ll never be back. He’s no good for you. You should [enter the act of spite or hate her] and He owes money around town.

As far as I can tell it went on and on and on.

That’s Samoa, and Samoan pride. In 2011 following a recommendation from the Prime Minister Tuila’epa, who was at that time our Patron AND Minister of Lands, the SWAP Foundation applied for land to lease from the SLC. “Sorry we don’t have any land!” was (and still is) the stock standard reply. That’s not true of course because they just haven’t released all that they have (by a very long shot either!) but it was true that there was a waiting list of (then) 800 people.

Knowing that the PM had advised us to apply I persisted, politely of course, only to be told these exact words, “Look we don’t have any land. We’ve got 1,000 people on the waiting list and even if we did have any it would go to our people first!”**

Whew! Is that Samoan pride or what?

We can also call it racism. The human cost to this Samoan pride has been staggering for even though the Prime Minister authorised the lease of 5 acres, for years since SLC and the bureaucrats within have not missed ANY opportunity to rub it in our noses. It has been so bad that it has caused misery and losses to the tune of MILLIONS and is subject to civil action in the Supreme Court of Samoa, SWAP Foundation vs the Attorney General on behalf of the Samoa Land Corporation lodged in court on Friday 14th October 2016.

There are some lovely things about Samoa. The weather is great – if you don’t like winters. The people smile and are welcoming. This is a cultural requirement and is widespread. But there are some things where, when you really get into it that the Palagi (and many Samoans from offshore) despise and the corruption, lies, dishonest ways and suchlike grate with those who value the good things of life, and think bigger than only one day, one culture and one family – theirs.

There is another human cost that is a little harder to understand and to quantify, and it is the loss of opportunity and hurt that the PM and other proud Samoans have experienced as a result of (not only this one decision) but a string of arrogance, racism, gossip and ill-will that have followed this foreigner in Samoa from the day shortly after my arrival when I first me Sonja Hunter. Yes I can actually pinpoint the specific date, time and place from which the first seed of evil & gossip occurred!

There are many people in Samoa who are in the middle in regards to SWAP and me personally. They are ambivalent to the PM’s chip on shoulder, or political things that their PM might get up to. They have lost the opportunity to benefit from my presence and activities. This is not fair for them.

It gets a lot clearer however in relation to those who are partners with SWAP, who are or were my personal friends. These people have also been stabbed in the heart. I feel for them. Many of them are not as strong as I am and fear for me. They despise the way that the PM and his people have treated me, some of them knowing the ill-will from a variety of sources going back over many years, and they feel totally powerless to stand up to the bully at the top.

In taking on those who have ripped me off, I have always known that the little people have taken heart. When key people in government are ashamed at what they know and slip me secret messages along the lines of, “Dennis don’t give up!” when I am feeling down or thinking of giving in, they encourage me for I know that they are lifted by the faith and courage that I have. One friend recently said to me, “Dennis, you enourage me so much. When I see what you have to put up with and how you stick in there, my own troubles look so small in comparison!” These are the people that I know have been hurt through the PM’s actions, and who draw strength from my stance.

The human misery that Tuila’epa and his crooked cronies have wreaked upon those associated with me and the SWAP Foundation is simply incalculable, and if I just walked away from the whole country in a tiff, there are many people who would always remember the shameful way that Samoa treated “The Palagi” for a long time.

DETRACTORS

I conclude by addressing potential detractors. While it might appear that I am bitter and hateful towards Samoa; that perhaps my blogging is a knee-jerk reaction to getting booted out, and that it was all my fault anyway because I overstayed, and that I should just really suck it all up, go away and get a life, I reply thus:

First, I am not bitter. I have paid an incredibly high price personally, but I consciously chose (and choose) to say and do what I did because it is the truth and I treasure the truth. I’m not some blundering idiot loudmouth that cannot think things through. On the contrary, I am an intelligent man who DOES think things through and has blogged over a million words to that effect. I do think that it’s not fair what Samoa’s arrogant leaders have done to their little people, like for example my estranged wife and children is bad, wrong and downright evil – that sucks for sure, but bitter? No. Calculating and committed? Yes, of course.

Secondly the technical aspects of my eviction are VERY tenuous. You can’t take an immigration matter to the legal system for resolution in Samoa but you can to the Human Rights Commission. I reserve that right. The Prime Minister has some real issues to deal with to justify his course of action, especially in a non-legal sense. His actions are immoral and of course designed for self preservation in his own constituency, Samoa, but in due course they will come out for what they really are – self-interest and foolishness from a man lacking good moral character. He is of course a politician. Yes, I DID overstay but there is another side to this which I haven’t yet shared, for want of avoiding self-justification. For the moment I have left the matter and accept that if you can’t accept the heat, you should stay out of the kitchen!

This then leads to the last concept which is burying the hatchet; accepting defeat and getting on with life. This is good advice to those who are hurting and suffering in a period of grief, unable to make wise decisions or take their lives forward. This is not my situation. I suffered. I have lost all, and needed to start my life afresh.

In my next post I speak directly yo yhr Big Man, Tuila’epa discussing publication of the book Corruption in Samoa.

 

* For people who cannot grasp the reality of this, remember that Samoans are a hot-headed people, traditionally warlike, quite capable of acts that don’t make sense to the Western Palagi ways. We tend to rationalise things a lot more and live by values and standards and abstracts. Polynesians tend to live more in the moment and rational thought often only comes after an event. Tui himself was a victim of a failed assassination attempt where one of his people died instead of him, so he really does live within the world of violence. [UPDATE: OLP has been running a series of posts in which he explains that it was actually a political assassination BY the PM, and he gives credible reasons why too, which only goes to show the seriousness that politicians like the Tuila’epa take to protect their power!] It would only take one misplaced word from him in a fit of frustration for a loyal servant to actually go out and commit murder, knowing that it would please the “boss” and it really would happen. It wouldn’t even need to be a direct order as such. This is the Samoan equivalent of The Godfather, you are dealing with, remember. Samoans on-island all know and understand this reality . . . Tui has that power.

** She later corrected the 1,000 figure to 800 explaining that they DID have 1,000 people but had just released Falelauniu lands to some 200.

 
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