Troubles in Samoa
Sun, 02 Sep 2012 1:53p.m.
Opinion by Falaniko Tominiko
Samoa is once again in the news with two main issues affecting the island, one religious and the other customary. On the religion front, the Samoan Seventh Day Adventist community is divided on which day to celebrate Sabbath, Saturday or Sunday. Those familiar with the SDA religion would know that Sabbath is Saturday however the changing of days last year by Samoa to match that of New Zealand has caused a rift in the church. One group now claims that Sabbath shall now be celebrated on the Sunday as it is not so much the day but the number of days in the cycle that matter. These members believe that Samoa’s Sabbath should continue along the seven day cycle and that with the changing of dates, the new Sabbath would then fall on the Sunday in accordance with this cycle. Traditionalists on the other hand claim that regardless of change, Sabbath should always be celebrated on a Saturday. It is this divide that has split the church and even gone as far as splitting families and villages. One High Chief of a village has said that he has had to go to another village to celebrate Sabbath on a Saturday because he doesn’t support his own village celebrating it on a Sunday. Make shift tent churches have been erected as temporary places of worship for members without a church. Who would have thought a simple change in date could have caused a church to split?
Given that I am not of the SDA faith, I don’t think I am qualified to give advice on a solution for this issue but I do have a question? It would be interesting to ask those supporters of a Sunday Sabbath what they did when they travelled to Australia or New Zealand prior to the date change. Had they travelled then, Sabbath in New Zealand would have occurred on their Friday in Samoa, so did they celebrate on the Saturday in New Zealand or did they chose not to acknowledge it, and have their own private Sabbath on the following Sunday. If that is the case, then I respect their decision to celebrate on a Sunday, however if they did acknowledge Sabbath on a Saturday in New Zealand, then I would say it is a bit hypocritical to now play that card. I guess from my own point of view, a Sunday Sabbath would be great for all the young SDA members as it would mean an extra night of the weekend they can go out clubbing i.e. Friday AND Saturday #just a thought.
The other issue which is a little closer to my heart is the Satapuala case where villagers blockaded police and workers from entering a site where plans for the construction of a new hospital were due to begin. This is an issue close to me because I have connections to Satapuala. The issue here is customary rights of lands, a right to which the village claim they still have. Now from memory, and correct me if I am wrong, this was settled a few years ago in court where the government won the case over the ownership of certain lands in Satapuala and that the village had been compensated with the government giving them other lands to relocate. If this is the case then why are Satapuala still up in arms about land and the government? As much as I feel for the villagers, if the courts have proven otherwise, then I feel they are fighting a losing battle. I feel sorry for the generations of today who are trying to right whatever wrongs their forefathers committed through the selling/leasing of traditional lands and for simply not having the foresight to see what sort problems their relinquishing of traditional lands would create for their descendants. If only our forefathers knew what the phrase ‘sustainable development’ meant back in those days. Reports claim that villagers armed with machetes confronted police armed with guns. Is one’s life really worth dying for a piece of land? Do we really want to go back to the days of old? Where is the Christianity in all of this?
The other side issue was the sacking of the Satapuala (pulenu’u) mayor by the government without any notice. Reports claim that his sacking was a result of his failure to control the issue and that maybe as a government employee (Samoan pulenu’u are on the government payroll), he should’ve sided with the government and help prevent such opposition from occurring. Now this is a difficult one to make a call on, but if I put aside the fact that I am a Satapuala person, the fact of the matter is that if you are paid by the government, then I guess it makes sense to support it. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. From the governments perspective, why keep employing someone who doesn’t support you. Regardless, it was said that Satapuala still support and regard him as their mayor. Maybe this time, its pro-bono. Satapuala are not the first village to have these sorts of issues and they sure won’t be the last. Let’s just hope they come to a peaceful solution and that it doesn’t escalate to anything worse.
Falaniko Tominiko is studying a PhD in Pacific Studies, focusing on Chiefly systems. He discusses the development and changes of the Matai (Chief) system in Samoa.
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