This Open Letter to Justice Vui (a Samoan Supreme Court Judge) answers a question that he put to a Samoan “Be The Man Forum” that opened yesterday. He was discussing an open secret, that Samoa is a violent country, (“Stop Press!” I hear you mock) and he wanted to know the reason why. I reckon he full well knows the answer but that he’s not allowed to say it because he’s a Judge, and not a Priest and that would be offensive in the Samoan culture. So I will.
Dear Clarence (Justice Vui* Clarence Nelson)
In a recent news media article entitled: Violence Against Women – A Disease About To Go Out Of Control it was said:
Supreme Court Judge, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson is alarmed at the increasing number of cases of violence against women on daily basis . . . He said cases brought before the Court were not only towards women and girls, but also against those with special needs.
You are directly quoted thus:
“We see this on a daily and weekly basis, and I cannot imagine where this will end up if we cannot find a solution,”
“Do we have an understanding why families in Samoa are like this? . . . I believe that unless we find the root of the problem, we cannot have a solution.”
At the suggestion that there is a need for stronger and severe laws, you are quoted as stating that there are enough laws already.
Another speaker (Aumua) believes unless Samoa reaffirmed the sacred vows of “Feagaiga” between a brother and sister through its custom and culture, the problem will continue to increase.
Sir, you are a smart man. I know, for I have appeared under you and you got to the heart of the problem very quickly [thank you] so I believe that you know very well where the problem stems from. Thus it is clear to me that you will be playing the Samoan game of politics, and not shooting straight, probably so as not to cause offense to others of your community whom you live, work and play with.
I am free from that encumbrance so tell it like it is, you may quote me.
It all began a long time ago, when things were a little different; when things were peaceful and the Lord God walked with His Creation. The problem first appeared when our forefathers chose to go their own way against the Creator’s instructions. The problem wasn’t evil; it wasn’t the temptation; it was the democratic process whereby two individuals conspired to go their own way contrary to God’s instructions. You know the event and its consequences well for you deal with this all day, every day – it is called the Fall.
Nothing has changed in the 4,000+ years since, Clarence, nothing. Mankind is still up itself and as I have explained for years (and more recently in pictorial form) the root cause of all ungodly, anti-social and self-destructive behaviour is pride.
Your people Clarence are proud. That’s the root cause of the violence that you mention, Sir. Nothing else. Deal with that, first in your own life, then in those you have influence over who are under your authority, then you will (as you rightly say) be able to deal with your [pl, Samoa’s] problem.
I know and understand that this is offensive to your Samoan sensitivities, that an outsider, a Palagi should speak ill of you and your people, but I speak the truth for your sakes, not mine and I do this because the Lord would say the exact same thing to you if you would deign to listen to Him.
Clarence, in your culture, you have religion up to your eyeballs. You have professional Priests, Pastors and Ministers whom you all trust in as God’s representatives in Samoa. You have a hybrid political system that serves the people the leadership that they deserve, and you have a unique culture that you [as a people] worship. There is nothing more patronising to the Saviour than to see and hear a people speak the arrogant, ungodly drivel that is “Samoa, mo Samoa” when He gave all.
God seeks what He deserves and until he gets it, first from you, Sir, and then those under your care, your “disease” as you put it, will indeed, “go out of control”.
I turn for a moment to the solution your colleague has promulgated which is to emphasise one aspect of Fa’a Samoa which is “Feagaiga”. This is a noble but foolish recommended solution for it puts faith in a fallible social system, rather than an infallible Creator. I respect the speaker’s passion and yet mock by laughing at the ludicrous solution – suggesting more of the very thing that created if not abetted the initial problem. It’s like trying to borrow to get out of debt, or bashing your kids when they are violent . . . oh wait, sorry, Samoa does those things already!
Sir, I speak in the place of Jesus. He sent me to Samoa and your political leaders had me exported in the scurrilous ways of cowards. Your people are violent because they are ‘up themselves’. The solution is to turn to the One who can forgive them and who has sent the Holy Spirit to empower them.
The solution [prescription in a medical sense] is:
- To humble yourselves – you already know what the problem is;
- To listen to the Master – putting your faith in Him directly (and not via some so-called authoritative middleman]; and
- Doing that which He asks.
I understand that this is difficult for you to say.
I have though, thus you are welcome to quote me.
My advice is to start with the little ones beneath you and ignore the corrupt ones above you. Jesus did.
Samoa is a violent country by all measure undertaken. It is not the only country that has violence issues but the people have a tendency to swing a fist before engaging brain.
This violence extends to all areas of life – work, play, faith, politics, family and all social settings. Justice Vui mentions abuse of those with special needs and others speak of family violence, but this violent attitude extends to monetary matters with the political, business and religious leaders all using their power for personal gain (yes I said and meant “all”, for this is systemic as well as individually chosen conduct).
Violence stems from arrogance, pride. When our wife shames us or puts us down (a common thing globally, not just in Samoa) we react with a fist in Samoa. Our thinking is, “How dare she!” and we exercise our perceived right to rule with force. Ditto with children, our political subjects and in a religious sense, our parishioners.
Justice Vui as Supreme Court Judge is a leader in one of the three political control systems, the judicial arm of Central Government (the other two are the religious system and the Matai or local government system). I view his capacity to speak openly in society is limited by cultural norms in the environment he operates in and his own personal career, in which he is in his prime.
Should he buck the system and really speak it like it is, he would probably have the Chief Justice sent to rot in jail tomorrow; the Prime Minister shortly thereafter; every religious leader in the country would hate him and preach against him and just like the Prime Minister’s political adversary that was assassinated and of course the Master, he’d be dead within three years.
There is a huge growing recognition, particularly within the Samoan Diaspora, that the Samoan political system is corrupt, and in particular the Prime Minister Tuila’epa. I view this recognition as very healthy. What is equally noticeable though to an outsider is that the recognition that has occurred outside the islands themselves has little effect upon those on-island. They seem mesmerised and incapable of breaking out of the [corrupt] status quo.
The reason is exactly that same that Justice Vui cannot and does not speak the above, even if he agreed with me and wanted to say it. Politics and power.
Sacrificial giving though is the only way forward for Samoa. Giving for Him. I shared this in one of my most important posts about Samoa in 2013. The sentiments within have never and will never change.
* Vui is Clarence’s Matai title name; Clarence is his firstname; Nelson his surname; Justice his work title.