Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Samoa tries to gag its people

Samoa's dodgy dissolution will be challenged in court this Thursday, which should provide some certainty over whether they are having an election next week. Meanwhile samoa's caretaker government is reportedly planning to ban Facebook for the election. Their reason?

“The disrespectful, repulsive and obscene language towards our leaders; not only the Head of State, the Hon Prime Minister, the Honourable Fiame Naomi and all other politicians as well as the Judiciary is not only culturally inappropriate but also concerning as our children are exposed to this,” says [Caretaker Minister of Communication and Information Technology] Afamasaga. “It goes against what we teach them as right behaviour”.


Afamasaga Toeolesulusulu says the issue is no longer about freedom expression, but a matter of national security with divisions being seen in families, villages and communities.

So, being "disrespectful" to leaders by questioning them is "a matter of national security". Right. Alternatively, a thin-skinned elite is getting increasingly intolerant of criticism and looking for any way to shut it down and stop people having the national conversation about them an election is meant to provoke. Again, they're taking the mask off, and showing they're not really interested in democracy. Which does not bode well for what will happen if the court rules against them.

But it also seems well beyond what a caretaker government should be doing. Constitutional traditions obviously differ, but Samoa is nominally a Westminster system, and at least pretends to have a caretaker regime between elections. Normally that means that the government doesn't make big decisions, as it does not necessarily have the confidence of the House to back it up (in NZ, that also extends to things like calling new elections). But I guess when you haven't had a democratic change of power for 40 years, these things tend to slip a little...