In Q4, 2009 (coincidentally, immediately post-Tsunami) I visited then emigrated to Samoa.
Between 2009 and 2012, I engaged with and befriended the Samoan Prime Minister. We spend many hours together with mutual respect and benefit – a win-win relationship. He undertook to be the Patron of our Samoan-registered Charitable Trust (the SWAP Foundation); assisted us with dispute resolution; securing land lease for our operations and took an interest in our well-being in Samoa.
Breach of Contract
We put a proposal to the Prime Minister for developing an international Samoa Day, which he liked; then instructed us in writing to proceed with a close working relationship with the STA (Samoa Tourism Authority) led by CEO, Papalii Sonya Hunter. I, Dennis, was clearly a threat to her empire (and ego). The PM found himself in-between a rock and a hard place as it became increasingly obvious that the STA under Sonja’s leadership would never see a Samoa Day if I was involved. “”Over my dead body” was the general theme!
When finding himself squeezed by a situation that he had no idea existed let alone the intensity of her hatred, the PM reneged and sided with “his girl”, essentially telling the Palagi (me) to bugger off.
I did. We did.
Over the weeks, months and years following this breach of contract, we kept a low profile and developed our voluntourism and cultural experiences, but the people talked, and talked and talked, and I came to understand what “his girl” actually meant. In 2015, I wrote a book called Corruption in Samoa, and slipped the only copy ever seen prior to recent publication to Tuila’epa, because he had asked and I had agreed.
A war of heated words erupted. “You’ve got a lot to learn about Samoa!” “No! you’ve got a lot to learn about THIS Palagi and a Samoan Prime Minister should NEVER talk to a guest in his country like that!” “You’ll be facing legal action if your publish that bull….!” “Well I’ve warned you and you better get used to the fact that I’m publishing!”
Tuila’epa failed twice to detail what was so wrong about a factual storyline about my experiences in the book so what could possibly have got him so touchy about a subject that he has handled with aplomb for more than a decade (i.e. corruption)? The answer is that I had spoken about and referred to his ‘inappropriate’ relationship with “his girl” Sonja Hunter. That subject is never spoken about in Samoa, except in hushed voices, and in private. I had crossed the line, taking it public.
I assessed the possibility at the time, that I would be evicted as a consequence of publishing to be 40/60 in favour of resolution of the problem and against eviction. I mean who in their right mind would want to p*ss off a Palagi blogger in the age of the Internet? Surely the PM would calm down and do the honourable thing and sit down and talk it through to compromise or resolution? Surely?
In Q1, 2016, I approached Samoa Immigration to fix my work permit that had expired. Some weeks later I received an email asking me to leave the country which I did, to American Samoa – three times backwards and forwards, each time being granted a two month visitors visa as I was a New Zealand citizen and this is an automatic right.
On 29 July 2016, Samoa Immigration acknowledged in writing that I was in Samoa on a valid permit expiring on 15 September 2016:
Anyways, we understand that you are currently residing on a valid visitor permit of 60 days due to expire on 15-09-2016.
. . . yet on 1 September 2016, without my knowledge, they secretly issued a notice to all international carriers informing me that I was classified a “prohibited immigrant”and that I was not to be permitted to enter Samoa. Only the Minister of Immigration can issue this directive. The Minister is . . . you guessed it . . . King Kong Tuila’epa himself! Oh and the Order itself I found out later was [“accidentally”] not sent to the carriers:
With regards to your query on the Order for Verification, Air New Zealand did not receive a copy of the Order for Verification either in hard or soft copy. [Air New Zealand Privacy Officer]
Samoa Immigration demanded that I leave immediately after issuing this secret notice, they lied, tricked my Samoan wife and I into applying for a family permit (again against Samoan law for it is illegal to aid and abet a prohibited immigrant to apply for a visa*) and then lied, advising us that it would only take five working days to process.
I departed with only hours of a business day, then was of course refused re-entry into Samoa at the Auckland airport 5 days later when checking in. I subsequently lost all, including everything I owned, family heirlooms, papers, seven years investment into Samoa, my Samoan wife and my three step children, the lot. I had and have had no opportunity to farewell friends or deal to any business or personal matter, returning to New Zealand with only a few clothes and a notebook computer having been led to expect to return.
Analysis of The Scandal
The scandal is not so much that a man of power has his way with obliging women. Tuila’epa is no different from many a politician in this regards, and as they say up there in Samoa, “What’s the big deal anyway? Everyone is doing it [cheating, that is]!”
The scandal is also not even that the Prime Minister has breached commercial contract, broken the law**, gotten rid of me and tried to cover up his role in it all, using others to do his dirty work . . . this is the way of Samoan politics at all levels of society after all.
Even though the scandal is worsened by the gross hypocrisy of the Samoan establishment claiming that Samoa is Founded Upon God, even legislating this into their constitution; and even the incredible shame resulting from a Palagi showing the world the true nature of Samoa and her leadership, this is still not the real scandal . . .
The real scandal is that in 2015, I personally went to the Prime Minister of Samoa, fronted him face-to-face and asked him directly, “Tui, do you want me gone, because I’ll go if you want me to?” and he buck-passed, obfuscated, blamed someone else. Then like a coward, he did what he did behind my back, against Samoan law, and then tried to hide his complicity in it all.
And THAT is why I wrote the book Corruption in Samoa.
This scandal is one of a man without morals or conscience, leading a nation that claims to be founded upon the Christian God. It is all about the absence of morals in a leader facing a blogger fearless to speak it how it is, and prepared to pay the price for doing so. It is a scandal where evil has been exposed at the top echelons of power in Paradise, and by an outsider at that.
About The Heavies
When Samoa’s heavies have their way with this Palagi blogger (and they will likely do, for violence is the real Samoan way, and the ample talk Samoan leadership is renowned for is all just politics undertaken for show), take careful note that “all roads will lead to Rome”, and just like the order to evict me from Samoa was issued by the “big man” Tuila’epa, the command for violence will also have come right from the top.
The scandal now explained, I conclude with a note to those very same thugs that have previously gotten to the others who have dared to speak out . . . when you visit me (like you have to the others you have killed and maimed***) I will look you straight in the eyes like a real man, then call you cowards like your leader and then bait you to pull the trigger as quickly as you can because I know exactly where both of us are going when you do pull it. I can tell you, they sure as eggs won’t be the same place.
* Section 31. Offences and liability concerning a Prohibited Immigrant – (1) Any person who being a Prohibited Immigrant: (a) applies for or attempts to apply for an Entry Permit…(2) Any person who knowingly:…(b) assists or attempts to assist a Prohibited Immigrant to enter or remain in Samoa … commits an offence. All staff from the CEO down did this knowingly.
** Section 3. Application of this Act – (1) This Act shall bind the Government AND Section 20. (3) Where a permit is cancelled under this section [Section 30 (2)] the Minister shall cause to be served on the person a written Notice to this effect. (4) The Notice under subsection (3) shall:…(b) state under which provision of this Act the Minister has acted. The Minister of Immigration (Tuila’epa) did not, of course.
*** To Palagi who think this sort of thing is overly dramatic, hospitalisation from politically motivated violence is certainly not unknown in Samoa and other outspoken Palagi have ‘copped it’. I’ve been hospitalised myself by violence from a matai from Satapuala and Samoans know how things work in Samoan politics – that’s just how things work when those greedy for power and control outwork their schemes! Tuila’epa himself claims to have survived an assassination attempt losing one of his men in the process. OLP gives a credible take that this was a cover-up FOR the PM’s involvement. Whatever the case, violent, passionate people don’t always think rationally when threatened or upset and they certainly don’t exercise the typical Western sophistication. Samoa can be a brutal place and unless you have lived in a third world country it’s impossible to truly understand this reality!