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Dear Editor,

Over the weekend, an uncle of mine spoke to me about “vafealoa’i” – the relationship of respect between brother and sister, between parents and their children, between the matai of a village, etc. – and its importance to the Fa’asamoa.

Basically he was saying that mutual respect is the glue that holds the whole system together, and that without it, everything pretty much falls apart.

In the same fashion, he says that our republican system of checks and balances is also founded on and held together by a relationship of respect – not just between the three branches of government but also between them and the procedural rules and protocols that define our democratic institutions.

Our discussion was obviously in respect (no pun intended) to the Governor’s action to keep the ASG open using last fiscal year’s dollars by sole virtue of his executive order.

What was clear to the two of us (and we’re betting, to the vast majority of people as well) was that no amount of legal gymnastics on the Governor’s part could reconcile his actions with the public’s understanding of basic civics – that it is the Legislature that approves the expenditure of a specific amount of taxpayer funds, for a specific purpose, for a specific amount of time.

The Governor’s apparent end-around of the Fono was blatant disregard of our democratic norms, and it shows a lack of respect not only for our legislature but also for our people’s understanding of and fidelity to the constitution.

His executive order may be limited in scope today and cover a period of only 15 days, but like they say, when you give someone an inch, they’ll take a mile. The next executive order may be for a month, the next after that, a year.

Soon enough the Fono will be rendered nothing more than a relic of the past.

Talifaitasi Satele