Samoa Prime Minister Receives Letter from Public Servants

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Thursday and Friday 2nd and 3rd September 2021. Don’t miss out.

Prime Minister Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa confirmed during her post-cabinet press conference that she has now formally  received the “open letter” from Samoa’s Public Service, despite the letter having already made its rounds on social media over the weekend.

The letter addressed to the Prime Minister from affected and concerned public servants was posted on social media last Friday 27 August 2021. It was anonymous and unsigned at the time, however, Fiame confirms this letter has now been formally delivered with an attached petition and request by its writers for a meeting.

Speaking to the media during Wednesday’s press conference Fiame said the key motivator of the letter seemed to be in relation to the suspensions and resignations of Government CEOs and heads of department.

Prime Minister Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Wed 1 Sept 2021. Photo: Jaleen Tupai, SGN.

The Attorney General and Clerk of the Legislative Assembly were placed on suspension Friday 20th August. The Police Commissioner resigned effective immediately on Monday 23rd August and the Chief Executive Officer of Finance says he was asked to resign and leave his office by Friday 27th August. The CEO of Women and Community Development was released three weeks prior when her contract ended.

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The Prime Minister said she has only just received the letter and would now need time to address the issues raised, and publish a response.

Fiame added that for Chief Executive Officer positions mentioned, there are specific circumstances to be examined for each case.

The Prime Minister also stressed the FAST government have stood for the Rule of Law, and all staff whether contracted or not, are protected under the law, in the same way employers are.

The Prime Minister, however, once again reiterated the government’s position in relation to Attorney General Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale. Fiame said she had lost confidence in the AG because of actions taken during the post-election events. Fiame said the Speaker was also unable to work with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Tiatia Lima Graeme Tualaulelei for the same reason, although the Prime Minister did also acknowledge that these actions were not necessarily the fault of the CEOs.

The Prime Minister said responses have been received from the suspended AG and Clerk of the House, and they were working through the issues.

The Letter

The letter referred to by the Prime Minister congratulates the incoming FAST government and then goes on to outline concerns, alleging that a promise to work together with the public service, has contradicted the events of recent weeks.

“We believed in the sincerity of your call for us all to work together in the interests of Samoa.

We were encouraged by your words that the “Public Servants remain, but Governments change” and “Let’s move forward together”.

“The recent decisions by the Government to suspend, terminate and/or force resignations of CEOs, have left us skeptical about whether you are indeed truly interested in working together and moving forward for the benefit of Samoa.”

 

The letter raises concerns as to proper process, and alleges a lack of transparency in bringing on board consultants and advisors outside Government.

Reads the letter: “Merit based Public Service recruitment is disregarded with the direct appointments of the government preferred advisers without putting them through the same process that we have gone through. We applied through the merit-based recruitment and selection process, and we have been duly selected and appointed in our current positions”.

“Do not replace us at will, without complying with the Public Service recruitment and selection processes and policies”.

CEOs and ACEO positions in Samoa’s public service are three year contract positions recruited through two processes..

Recruitment of Ministry CEOs and ACEOs are done through the Public Service Commission led by the PSC Chair and Commissioners, while CEOs of  State Owned Enterprises follow the same process except it is led by Board of Director Chairs and Board Members.

Panel recommendations, however, all end up before Cabinet for final endorsement and decision.

The Letter to the PM outlines this process and asks for job security.

“We are Senior Public Servants, recruited and selected in accordance with employment policies and laws of this country. The CEOs and ACEOs are leaders recruited by an independent panel with the selection and appointments confirmed by a Board resolution, a FK (Cabinet Directive), a Warrant of Appointment duly signed by the Head of State, and/or a duly signed Contract of Employment.”

“Our jobs are our livelihoods, and we need our jobs to support our families. We have earned these jobs on merit, and we therefore expect to retain and hold onto our jobs despite the change of Government.”

The open letter ends with the issue of mental health of public servants and calls for a stop to what is described as toxic and intimidating work environments and alleges there is undermining and intimidation of workers.

“Mental Health has been affected with the negative and toxic work environment of fear, looking over one’s shoulder, walking on ‘egg-shells’, warnings, verbal harassment, in whatever form, have left many Public Servants mentally stressed and emotionally drained”

“Cease the undermining and intimidation..”

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The letter also highlights the role of the media alleging there have been attacks on public servants, and contradicting messages from Ministers to the media.

“The relentless character assassinations via select media outlets and mixed messages praising us privately yet publicly lashing out, has done nothing but disrespect and unsettle the Public Servants.”

The letter alleges public servants are being discriminated against for having a political view, or connections to the rival opposition party.

“Public servants are to be respected and treated fairly, instead of being intimidated and pressured into resigning, questioned into silence, suspended due to distrust and lack of confidence issues, and/or terminated because of our family connections and political affiliations”.

In spite of our political affiliations and views, we have sworn Oaths before the Almighty God to serve Samoa through our Government. This is normal in any vibrant democracy, and we would like to think that as a mature democracy in the Pacific, Samoa should continue to shine as the leading example of democratic principles.

“Give us your confidence and trust that we the Public Servants will serve in accordance with our Oaths.”

The Open Letter is printed below in verbatim:

27th August 2021

OPEN LETTER

TO: HON. PRIME MINISTER FIAME NAOMI MATAAFA
FROM: AFFECTED & CONCERNED PUBLIC SERVANTS

Dear Honourable Prime Minister,

“PUBLIC SERVANTS REMAIN, BUT GOVERNMENTS CHANGE”

#PublicServantsMatter

1. First and foremost, we offer our warmest congratulations to you and your party for becoming the new Government of the day.

2. We welcomed our new Government when it arrived in office, through prayer sessions, ava o le feiloaiga, staff morning teas and meetings. We believed in the sincerity of your call for us all to work together in the interests of Samoa. We were encouraged by your words that the “Public Servants remain, but Governments change” and “Let’s move forward together”.

3. However, in the limited time that our new Government has been in office, the calls for UNITY appear to have manifested into actions of DISUNITY.

4. We, the concerned and affected Senior Public Servants, are writing to raise our concerns about the recent treatment (suspension, forced resignations and termination) of several Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and the possible similar outcome for many more CEOs, Assistant Chief Executive Officers (ACEOs) and other contract positions, as well as those who hold permanent positions within the Public Service.

WHO ARE WE & WHY ARE WE WRITING TO YOU? – “SENIOR PUBLIC SERVANTS WHO WISH TO CONTINUE OUR SERVICE”

5. We are, in the main, career Public Servants. We chose to serve in the Public Service, and we want to continue our service to our Government and people.

6. We are Senior Public Servants, recruited and selected in accordance with employment policies and laws of this country. The CEOs and ACEOs are leaders recruited by an independent panel with the selection and appointments confirmed by a Board resolution, a FK (Cabinet Directive), a Warrant of Appointment duly signed by the Head of State, and/or a duly signed Contract of Employment.

7. Most of us have spent the majority of our professional lives in the Public Service having returned from overseas university studies and with work experience to contribute to the development of Samoa. Collectively, we have a significant number of years of public service experience and institutional knowledge which, would best be applied in the service of the Government and the people of Samoa.

8. In spite of our political affiliations and views, we have sworn Oaths before the Almighty God to serve Samoa through our Government. This is normal in any vibrant democracy, and we would like to think that as a mature democracy in the Pacific, Samoa should continue to shine as the leading example of democratic principles.

9. As you said in one of your early speeches as Prime Minister, the Public Servants are the very people that this new and primarily novice Government needs to support and implement your vision for Samoa going forward. That is what we have been trained, educated, and worked hard for – to serve in the pursuit of Samoa’s prosperity.

WHAT IS HAPPENING? – “A DISRESPECTED PUBLIC SERVICE”

10. The recent decisions by the Government to suspend, terminate and/or force resignations of CEOs, have left us skeptical about whether you are indeed truly interested in working together and moving forward for the benefit of Samoa.

a. The relentless character assassinations via select media outlets and mixed messages praising us privately yet publicly lashing out, has done nothing but disrespect and unsettle the Public Servants.

b. Morale is declining as our commitment, motives and work are questioned and second guessed, including by non-government advisers. We are here! You already have a well-educated and vastly experienced Public Service at the Government’s disposal.

c. Mental Health has been affected with the negative and toxic work environment of fear, looking over one’s shoulder, walking on ‘egg-shells’, warnings, verbal harassment, in whatever form, have left many Public Servants mentally stressed and emotionally drained.

d. Merit based Public Service recruitment is disregarded with the direct appointments of the government preferred advisers without putting them through the same process that we have gone through. We applied through the merit-based recruitment and selection process, and we have been duly selected and appointed in our current positions.

11. We have no agenda other than to continue our committed service for the benefit of Samoa. We, the Public Servants matter!

WHAT DO WE WANT? – “LET US CONTINUE TO SERVE”

12. Let us do what we have been employed to do, that is, to serve Samoa through the Government of the day. We therefore respectfully seek the following assurances:

a. Job security – That our signed Contracts of Employment, Warrants of Appointments duly signed by the Head of State, FK (Cabinet Directives) and Board resolutions, that have given rise to our legitimate expectations of valid and ongoing employment, be honoured.

b. Job stability – Our jobs are our livelihoods, and we need our jobs to support our families. We have earned these jobs on merit, and we therefore expect to retain and hold onto our jobs despite the change of Government. Do not replace us at will, without complying with the Public Service recruitment and selection processes and policies.

c. Cease the undermining and intimidation – That the various forms of intimidation and harassment, designed and implemented to undermine us in the performance and discharge of our duties and functions, cease.

d. Protect our mental health – Public servants are to be respected and treated fairly, instead of being intimidated and pressured into resigning, questioned into silence, suspended due to distrust and lack of confidence issues, and/or terminated because of our family connections and political affiliations.

“OUR PLEA”

13. We wish to continue our service to Samoa in the various roles that we have been duly appointed to. We take comfort in your words that the “public servants remain, but governments change”. We share in the hope of a new Government looking to build our nation. We expect professionalism in the discharge of our respective duties and responsibilities under your leadership, for the benefit of our beloved Samoa. We pray for respectful treatment of Public Servants and plea for a stop to the forced resignations, suspension, and/or termination of Public Servants. Give us your confidence and trust that we the Public Servants will serve in accordance with our Oaths.

14. We wait in hope and pray that sound judgement will prevail. Public Servants matter!

God bless Samoa.

SIGNED: Concerned & Affected Public Servants