P.M. Tuilaepa, Samoa Airways and fake news

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It’s been a remarkable week for Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. Being the mother hen when it comes to the Government’s newest baby called Samoa Airways, the Prime Minister has not held back, letting rip at anything and everything that comes across as a threat.

And what is that threat? 

Well, we think it’s that nagging thing called the truth. It appears that despite the Government’s best efforts to conceal it in terms of the airline’s performance thus far, the reality about what is going on is leaking like a sieve so that no matter what the Government says, the picture is not flattering at all.

As far as accountability, transparency and good governance goes, there is a simple solution to it all. All Prime Minister Tuilaepa needs to do is tell the country the truth. 

Yes nothing but the truth.

The truth will not only set them free, it will also turn anger away. And when people understand, they are able to help. 

The fact is no one expects Samoa Airways to be making a profit right away.

Anyone who knows anything about business will tell you that. 

But from what is leaking from Tuilaepa’s administration, the numbers are worrying and this is why we have been demanding that they be transparent about it. It’s better to do it now and get it fixed than allowing a sore to fester into a full-blown scab. The history of failed Polynesian Airlines is there to remind us what could happen if the government is not alert. 

We don’t need to tell you anymore. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa obviously doesn’t want any of it. Last week, he referred to people question the airline’s operation as “stupid.”

In fact, he was particularly scathing of the Editor of this newspaper, hurling across some wonderful names.

Tuilaepa reminded that Samoa Airways is still a baby. He said critics who say the airline is already running at a loss are misinformed.

“This great airline of Samoa has only started in four months and the Samoa Observer writes a stupid headline based on ignorance,” he said, adding that the Airline is going through the same phase the “stupid editor” went through when “he was a baby.” 

 “When he was just born, he rolled on his stomach, after sucking his big toes, the same toes that began to grow later, then he walked and then run.” 

Remarkable, isn’t it? 

Coming from the leader of this country, such class and taste? 

By the way, we don’t mind being called “stupid.” We are used to it. 

Besides, we’ve been called “idiots”, “fools,” “kids,” “stinking pigs” and all sorts of other unflattering names. Over the years you develop such thick skin you don’t really care. 

Now you’d think after Prime Minister Tuilaepa said all that to ridicule and discredit our work that he would stop there? Nope. 

Today on the front page of your newspaper, he is back again. Take another look.

This time, Tuilaepa has claimed that “almost all the news in our papers” are “not real news.” 

Told during the interview that the Samoa Observer was only “doing what it is supposed to do – to disseminate news for the public to know what’s going on in any branch of government,” Tuilaepa snapped.

“That golden rule of freedom of speech you implied has been abused thousand times over by the so-called Free Press in Samoa,” he said. 

“There is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech, and our Courts have already addressed that frequently misunderstood term.”   

According to the Prime Minister when the press decides to exercise the freedom of speech doctrine, “it has to use extreme caution to ensure that the article does not impinge on somebody else’s reputation, or else face the consequences.”

Hold on a second here. The issue in question is Samoa Airways. 

It is a government-owned Airline which means the public are entitled to know what is going on there. This is not about Prime Minister Tuilaepa and anyone else in government for that matter. This is about ringing the alarm bells so that the ugly mistakes of the past are not repeated. Nobody wants that.

Besides, the government doesn’t just belong to Tuilaepa and his administration. It belongs to you, me and everyone paying taxes in this country. 

Lastly, the Prime Minister went on to say that “these days almost all the news in our papers are opinionated. They are not real news.”

Funny that because as far as we are concerned, Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s photo and what he has to say about everything and anything – including the work of the government - are on the pages of this newspaper seven days a week, more than 300 days a year. Is that fake news? 

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

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