"Be calm as a dove but discerning as a serpent."

"Filemu pei o le lupe, ae atamai pei o le gata."

The ongoing saga between Samoa’s PM and John Campbell is already a hot news item. The PM is in the “hot seat” while Mr. Campbell keeps and maintains his cool. Personally, I think the PM does not look composed or dignified on that TV3 (NZ) video. He looks agitated and I feel for him. He desperately and urgently needs help in his media dealing skills especially those that would make him calm and cool under pressure - namely impromptu interview pressure. I don’t think that he’s the kind of person who would have handled that well since he has always been belittling, belligerent and petulant. Perhaps the biggest liability in such demeanor is the fact that the whole country looks bad when its leader loses his cool and composure in such circumstances - especially with a foreign media.

There’s an irony in the whole exchange. The PM tells Mr. Campbell to have some manners and respect and yet he disrespects Mr. Campbell by slamming the door of the SUV in Campbell’s face. (Wait a minute, was that an LHD vehicle? ... more on that later.)

I have some suggestions for future candidates for the PM post.

As part of their tenure/term, if not their preparations, they need effective training in media presence, appearance conduct and mannerisms.  In today’s world of ubiquitous and pervasive high-speed communication, it’s critical if not obligatory for leaders to be current and competent in these areas. They need to learn how to remain calm cool and collected in the presence of cameras, lights and fact-finding microphones.

Candidates also need to undergo psychological evaluation. This is not a farfetched suggestion, by the way. Certainly we don’t have any nuclear weapons and secret codes but public embarrassment by the leaders - especially in foreign deals, liaisons and involvement - is just as damaging and insulting to the people. In fact the luma (public humiliation) concept is well etched in Samoa’s social and moral conscience and psyche and so sanity and self control are effective and necessary antidotes.

Lastly, welcome to the Internet and Youtube age - not a conch shell and lali (large wooden drum) one. High-speed streaming technologies are pervasive and powerful forces as well as the norm in today’s global society. If bad news traveled fast yesterday, today it travels in super meteoric speed measured in seconds and nanoseconds. In the real world of contemporary politics and its media dependent nature, a candidate can lose an election or even ruin his/her whole political career from a gaffe, an outburst or other bloopers. Samoa politics is not immune to this, if not now, very soon.

At least consider the favorite Samoan expression: “Filemu pei o le lupe ae atamai pei o le gata.” (Be calm as a dove but discerning as a serpent.)

This is Houston: "Damage control mode!  Damage control mode! ...Over!"

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