Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sai’lele Malielegaoi has accused the media of re-running “stale footage” and “fabricating stories” in relation to concerns expressed about the behaviour of street vendors in Apia.
Tuilaepa also flatly denied a call to change the laws to allow the Police to hold parents accountable – and charging them where possible - for children selling goods on the streets at ungodly hours.
The Prime Minister made the comments when his opinion was sought on growing concerns about the misbehaviour of street vendors.
At the end of last month, CCTV footage captured three young vendors beating a homeless person at 3am. The video, captured outside the Bartley building in Savalalo, caused widespread anger, leading to calls for the government to address the issue immediately.
The concerns were heightened when another footage emerged last week featuring street vendors fighting among themselves in public.
Asked for a comment, Tuilaepa wielded the axe towards the media.
“I’ve just got off the phone with the Police,” he said. “They are surprised about that issue. You see, it’s easy to bring back something you filmed many years ago, especially at this time when they are looking for some stories to fill the paper."
“That thing is not new. So the Police are surprised, they are going to see where these reports come from. According to them, nothing like that is happening.”
Tuilaepa said it is in the nature of the media, especially newspapers to make up stories. He did not name any particular media organization.
“See we have alot of people here trying to look for some gossip,” he said referring to journalists present at his weekly media briefing.
“So what happens is that when you search and cannot find a story, then you fabricate such stories. You go and bring back the footage that’s been stale in your files for months and then you re-run it like it’s something that happened yesterday."
“The Police say no such thing has reached their office.”
As the Minister of Police, Tuilaepa indicated he’s more inclined to believe the Police.
“The state of the Police department at this moment is very good.”
Told that the footage in question was captured towards the end of last month and that the footage of brawling street vendors was during the holidays, Tuilaepa insisted no one has reported anything to the Police.
“I called the Police and they said there has been no report,” he said.
“This is the responsibility of the Police.”
The Prime Minister added that members of the public should feel duty bound to help.
“Everyone has a duty. If they see these things they should help. That’s the duty of all Samoans, to stop these kids when they’re fighting.”
As for a law to charge parents who allow their kids to stay out late at night to sell goods, Tuilaepa said this was unnecessary.
“It’s a foolish matter,” he said. “If we do something like that we will be worse off than Communism. The thing to do is just use your brains.”
Tuilaepa reminded that the government cannot do everything. Parents have to play their role, which includes ensuring that their children are taken care of.
“That’s the stuff parents, Village Councils and Pastors should be looking out for. That’s the duty for all of us,” he said.
“The government doesn’t have to do everything, that’s the responsibility of parents and families."
“So when we have a law like that, we will be worse of than communist countries. It means that every time you want to go to the toilet you have to ask for permission.”