My personal reflections on this blog take inspiration from the Bahá’í teachings.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Head of a small state who left a major legacy

"Blessed is the king who marcheth with the ensign of wisdom unfurled before him, and the battalions of justice massed in his rear. He verily is the ornament that adorneth the brow of peace and the countenance of security." -- Baha'u'llah

Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II, late Head of State of Samoa, showed an example of leadership that has won him exceptional praise since his passing a week ago.

The United Nations General Assembly paid tribute to his memory on 16 May. Tonga Now reports that on behalf of the Pacific Forum states, Tonga's Ambassador to the UN, HE Mrs Fekitamoeloa 'Utoikamanu, said:

"He has faithfully served his people as Head of State of Samoa for forty-five years with great humility, distinction, and with much affection. He worked tirelessly to pursue the development aspirations of Samoa. The death of His Highness is a great loss to Samoa. His Highness’s dedication and commitment in the service of his people will always be remembered by the people of Samoa."

South African President, Thabo Mbeke called Malietoa, "an inspirational leader, richly imbued with great warmth, kindness and generosity of spirit", according to The Independent.

Fairfax journalist Michael Field wrote that Malietoa was "a very much-loved man, incorruptible, humble and funny."

Field also wrote:

"He defined the post [of Head of State] by a gracious dignity and sincere warmth of character. He was a nationalist, immensely proud of Samoa, but he was also an intelligent leader well aware of the need to offer a guiding hand rather than an oppressive one."

Malietoa's daughter Papalii Momoe Von Reiche told New Zealand television before his funeral yesterday: "My father really reflected humanity, humbleness and a great deal of love for his people. I think he'll be sorely missed."

Don Rivers told the Honolulu Advertiser that his highness also was held in high esteem by residents of American Samoa. "Whenever there was any kind of little problem, he would try to solve it," Rivers said. "He was like a glue that kept both islands together."

In tributes given at Malietoa's funeral and over the week leading up to it, the word "humble" was used repeatedly. Commentators have also uniformly emphasized that Malietoa was a unifying force in his country, through his calmness, compassion, wisdom, and ability to mix easily with all ranks of people.

Malietoa's role as Head of State was above partisan politics and the day to day affairs of government, but Samoa's unusual stability and wellbeing owes a great deal to his influence. He demonstrated that fostering unity is the key to progress.

Although Samoa is a small state, with a population of only 200,000 people, through Malietoa it has given the world an example of what can be achieved through dedication to unity.

Malietoa was a follower of the Baha'i Faith, and his record shows that he took the principles of his faith to heart.

"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established." -- Baha'u'llah

"His service to the people of Samoa as Head of State was distinguished by the high principles, genuine compassion and personal humility that characterized the constancy of his concern for the welfare of all," the Universal House of Justice, the international Baha'i governing body, said in a statement to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Samoa.


Phillipe Copeland said...

Thanks my man for this thoughtful coverage of the passing of the second Baha'i sovereign.

John Bryden said...

Phillipe, your encouraging feedback is much appreciated -- especially from a tireless and accomplished blogger such as yourself!