The book Corruption in Samoa has had a serious impact on many people, not least the author.
I was ‘close’ to the Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuila’epa from my arrival in Samoa in 2009 for the first two years. Tui, as he asked to be called, wined & dined the new-boy on the block and loved the positivity and ideas that “the Palagi” brought to Samoa.
Equally enjoyable was the novelty of my engaging constructively with the Prime Minister for a couple of years. That closeness however ceased abruptly when the CEO of Samoa Tourism, Sonja Hunter, put the kibosh on a JV that the PM had tried to establish – an international Samoa Day.
Having spent money on the project, I considered myself ripped off and effectively went bush for three years. In 2015 I wrote about my experiences in this book and gave a copy to Tuila’epa as previously agreed.
The book detailed direct experiences within five government departments whereby racism and corruption was explained, but none of this appeared to phase the PM in the slightest – he was of course head poncho of a corrupt country and was skilled at dealing with negative press. What he found intensely embarrassing however was the naming of the CEO of Samoa Tourism as his mistress, something not widely known at the time.
“You’ve got a lot to learn about Samoa. You’ll be exposing yourself to court action if you publish!” was the essence of his feedback.
“You are rude and should never speak to a guest in your country like that. You’ve got a lot to learn about me, and I’m publishing!” was the essence of my reply.
I also stated that if he wanted me to sell more copies of the book then he should “have my immigration status reviewed” – a phrase used by a detractor to the PM in my early days in Samoa. Two years later, Tui actually did this secretly. He had to break the law to achieve it, I was tricked into leaving and refused re-entry despite having a Samoan wife, three step children, and written proof from Samoa Immigration that I was in Samoa on a valid permit.
I did ask Tui what he really wanted and offered to leave Samoa. “If you just want me out, tell me to go and I will go” I said. His later response was that of a typical political coward.
The price of speaking the truth to the top Samoan bully was everything I owned: monetary, family heirlooms, relationships. everything except for a notebook computer & one suitcase.
The flipside however is that the little people, and those who know the truth about their sad, corrupt, greedy, crooked leadership is that they tell me privately, secretly to never stop speaking the truth. They get hope from the fact that somebody out there, somewhere knows and understands their plight. Among other things they call me a “national treasure”.
On one side I lost all – on the other I now understand how power affects & attracts greedy political leaders & the respect of a few. It costs to speak the truth. I paid the price.