Samoa Observer Editorial: Fiame's understatement a unique political force
Fiame Naomi Mata'afa is many things.
She was, of course, until, recently, of course, the nation’s first-ever female Deputy Prime Minister. She is the daughter of its first-ever Prime Minister.
Her grandfather, Le Mamea Matatumua Ata, was one of the framers of this great nation’s constitution.
And her descent from the tama-a-'aiga (royal lineage) system that stands apart from formal Parliamentary politics but is at least, if not more, influential than it, is also a key part of her political identity.
She is also a veteran politician and a consummate political strategist. That can be easy to forget for a woman with such a regal bearing as hers.
But on the front page of today’s Samoa Observer, we are reminded of this fact and the way it intersects with these other qualities to give her a place in Samoan politics that no one else can occupy.
Fiame has been at the centre of power in Samoa for decades; she was first appointed a member of cabinet in 1991.
In that time she had a seat at the table of a cabinet that has presided over a period of economic prosperity and development in Samoa, for which we give the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) due credit.
But she also saw a Government wracked by scandal over more than three decades.
Dating back from the 1995 bid to sack Su’a Rimoni Ah Chong, from the office of Controller and Chief Auditor as a consequence of a bombshell report detailing widespread corruption to recent issues relating to tendering and contracting, she has been a witness to malfeasance.
Let us be clear we do not think that this implies a degree of complicity or responsibility on Fiame’s part.
On the contrary. In a career where most figures in Samoan public life, up to and including the Prime Minister’s, are at the very least speckled by scandal, hers is not.
She told this newspaper she has sought to influence her party for the better from within.
“One of the things I have been able to do is speak up. I don’t speak up that often but I do in Cabinet, sometimes in caucus, but if you are only one voice…,” she said.
Her unsoiled record in public life combined with the dignity of her presence lends her critiques of Government the power of subtlety that others now speaking out against the Government do not possess.
Olo Fiti Vaai, Faumuina Wayne Fong and La’auli Leuatea Schmidt cast aspersions on Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi and projects that his Government leads.
But when Fiame speaks, she exercises the power of understatement.
In her interview today, Fiame made clear that it was a plan to overhaul the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) that led her to quit the Government.