One of the cultural icons in the country fears that political stability in Samoa is at risk, if the ‘ava fatafata’ or mutual respect that holds it together is gone.
Director of the Nu’u Cultural Centre and former lecturer in Samoan at the National University of Samoa, Maulolo Tavita Amosa, warns the country will descend into chaos once it does.
Maulolo accuses the violent rhetoric emerging behind the anonymity of the social media and by radical overseas Samoans, of blatant disregard for traditional values of the ‘ava fatafata.’
“This is very sad because once we abandoned the heart of our culture the stability of Samoa will collapse and the power of the gun will rule as we have seen in other troubled countries of the world,” Maulolo cautioned.
“ Our culture of respect runs according to the customs and traditions of each village, district and deference to the dignity of family clans that connects people in all corners of Samoa.”
Maulolo underlined the respect for family lineage, language and culture as the molding ingredients every Samoan is raised in.
He said each Samoan inherit the dignity of a family clan and all the other values of respect it is accorded .
“There are no languages of disrespect in the Samoan culture because unlike other cultures we do not have a class separation of commoners and nobles.
“Everyone is related to a family clan and mutual respect is always observed, the only time it is disrespected is in the use of foul language.”
Maulolo clarified that the use of foul language brings shame to the person’s family by being despised by the other families for lack of proper manners and respect.
The guilty person’s family will be under pressure as well to demonstrate for all to see that proper punishment is dealt to serve as a reprimand for bad manners.
Maulolo is deeply disturbed by the level of vulgar in the online language that he suspected are coming mostly from the Samoan diaspora concentrated in Australia and New Zealand.
The Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele and members of Government have been the primary targets in most of the offensive political online attacks.
The extent of the abuse was highlighted with the arrest last week of a visiting Samoan male who lives in Australia and charged with defamatory statements against the Prime Minister, made online.
A show of radical extreme was in the attack in Brisbane, Australia, last year on the Prime Minister by a Samoan who threw a cut out pigs head at him.
The attack was soundly condemned by Maulolo as a total break down in Samoa’s culture of ‘ava fatafata.’
“ There are systems in the culture of mutual respect where personal complaints or disagreements are raised between families or parties, the name ‘ava fatafata’ means we stand facing each other.
“ We state up front what we have to say to each other and reach an amicable understanding, we don’t go and throw pigs head at the Prime Minister of Samoa in a foreign country.
“It’s not just the leader of Samoa who is shamed but all of us in Samoa. The first questions asked about these two Australian based individuals is who are they, whose family they are from, who are their chiefs and orators.”
A person’s wider family clan ties is what Maulolo is more concerned with at the loss of mutual respect.
He pointed to the risks of the controversy escalating out of control if it was extended to the offended family of the Prime Minister and cultural and constituency districts.
“The whole system of ‘ava fatafata’ was in an uproar and the threat to the political stability in Samoa easily threatened by what happened.”
Maulolo rejected suggestions of freedom of expression as a right for the people to express their opinion.
As far as he is concerned, it was an abuse of term as there is no such thing as absolute freedom - the attack on the Prime Minister was abuse of freedom of expression.
“In the Samoan culture you have family, village and the church, when you express your freedom of speech you are always mindful of their presence, that is our mutual respect.
“You can’t just bulldoze your personal rights over their rights - we have ‘va tapuia’ in our culture.
“ This is where a person is aware of his/her position in relations to others like women, church ministers, chiefs and orators or leaders of Government like the PM.
“If you have anything against the PM take it up with your electoral constituency MP, not sneak around and attack him like in Australia.”
Maulolo believes the answer to all the threats to the stability of Samoa is in the culture – so too is the risk of collapse if it is lost.