New Minister denies conflict of interest

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia ,

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Minister Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i.

Minister Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i.

The Minister of Communications and Information and Technology (M.C.I.T), Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, has denied that a conflict of interest exists with his business interests and his new role in the telecommunication sector.

Responding to questions from the Sunday Samoan in light of his appointment, the new Minister has assured that he is not letting anything get in the way of performing his duties. 

That includes Afamasaga stepping away from Skylite Productions, a production company co-owned by Afamasaga, which does a lot of work with Digicel in Samoa and around the region.

As the Minister of Communications, Afamasaga is also responsible for the Office of the Regulator, which deals with disputes between the major telecommunication competitors, Digicel and Bluesky.

“There is really no conflict at all in this,” Afamasaga said. “Through my office, it has informed all sectors and everybody they do work for, that I am no longer involved with the work (of Skylite).” According to Afamasaga there are managers who are running the company.  “I have pulled out completely in terms of position and involvement.” 

 But in the circumstances where Skylite is involved, the M.P for Aana Alofi No.3 has his way of dealing with it. While he made reference to other M.Ps who are also in that “circle of running businesses”, Afamsaga said he takes his oath seriously. 

“I have made my oath to prioritise (and work) for the interest of the government and the general public,” he said.

“That is what I focus on. You can have your own interests and Skylite can have their own but an individual interest is not my main concern as my decision is based on the general needs of the public.”

With just less than a month into his new line of work, Afamasaga has set his priorities for the next five years. 

One of it is to have the multimillion submarine cable up and running by June next year. 

The Minister says the cost of internet is expensive and that needs to change.

The current costs are “tying up a lot of people” including the private sector and the government. 

“That hasn’t helped our economy in terms of development in education, health, especially our grassroot level in schools,” he said.

The Minister said that once the cable is established, it will have a positive impact on education in the rural villages who are being “suppressed from developing” because of not being able to access the internet. 

Afamasaga and his Associate Minister, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, were officially welcomed by Bluesky on Friday during an ava ceremony.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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