A hotelier has raised concerns and his disappointment in the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) for releasing a public notice about an unnamed disease.
The owner of the Millenia Hotel, Tuala Oli Ah Him, said he is worried about how the M.O.H. could come out just like that and publicise such an unfounded statement.
“It took them five days before they could come up with a name for this disease and to me I consider this an ambush act on the private sector especially on the tourism industry that our economy of Samoa relies on.”
“My worry is that the whole world is watching and it seems like after they took five days to come up with a name, the picture that they are painting is that there is an epidemic or a pandemic brewing in Samoa; meaning that it looks like there’s a totally new disease and it really affects the tourism.”
Tuala said he has tourists emailing him asking what is going on in Samoa.
According to him someone needs to be held accountable for the damage that has already been caused by publicising such notice.
“My concern is my 100 plus staff members and also the 6,000 people employed under the tourism industry including those at the flea market that was recently burned down and now they are all burned again with such statement from the M.O.H. threatening their livelihoods with these unfounded statements,” he said.
“I think that some sort of discipline should be in place or the M.O.H. should be accountable because there is a Tourism Development Act 2012, Clause 38, Sub clause 3a that states:
“It is an offence and a person is liable for conviction if they publicise any information that is false and may harm the reputation of Samoa as a tourist destination.
“If found guilty, it’s either imprisonment or $5,000tala fine.”
Clause 38 – Preservation of the reputation of the destination – The Authority (STA) may take such action as is necessary to preserve the reputation of Samoa as a tourist destination by
• Sub clause 1: (a)exercising lawful controls over the publication of false or out of date information by any means, or such information which is prejudicial to a public perception of Samoa
• (b)otherwise publishing information to correct any fact, matter or detail which the Authority considers to be false or misleading; or
• (c)doing any other act or thing which may preserve the reputation of Samoa as a tourism destination when necessary
Sub clause 3: Any person who:
• Publishes or causes to be published by any means, any information or claim that is false and which is intended or may have the tendency to cause harm to the reputation of Samoa as a tourist destination; or
• Refuses to retract such false information or to publish a correction concerning the information when required to do so by the Authority; or
• Fails to retract the information or to publish a correction in the manner required by the Authority
• Commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not less than 50 penalty units or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three (3) months or both
“As a matter of fact I’m not even sure if it’s a real disease or it’s just a madeup disease but the damage is already done, it’s all over Facebook and Social Media.”
He went on to say that with all his years spent in other countries he has never come across a country that would publicise a health warning in this manner.
“I think the health department especially the minister should look really carefully at these public notices,” he said.
“The only people who are benefiting from this are TV1 and its shareholders but our country is not; we are losing out.
“It’s not just the hotels that are affected by this but the flea market, fish market, fruit market, the taxi drivers at the airport waiting for the planes and which turn up empty because people are not coming because of this sort of publicity.
“Also I’d like to humbly ask the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister to please have a look at these issues.
“To some people it might not mean anything but as a business owner who is concerned about the economy of Samoa and prospect of its people, I know it will affect the economy especially now we rely on tourism.”
Tuala also said that this is not the first time the Ministry of Health has come up with such notices, because they did it with the ZIKA Virus as well.
“An epidemic means a local disease but pandemic means it’s going global and it’s brewing in Samoa and that is the picture that the M.O.H. has put across,” he said.
“[And] they are also saying that it comes from urine of affected dogs, cats, and rodent but they are forgetting about chickens; luckily fish don’t have legs or they would’ve been included too.
“I am not attacking anybody I’m just simply speaking from what I see and how affected our country is because of this.
“It’s lucky that the World Health Organisation is not on the plane already to come and quarantine Samoa and stop everybody from coming in and going out as if this was an Ebola breakout.
“I’m not sure whose attention the M.O.H. is trying to get. Maybe they are trying to get the attention of W.H.O. or someone but they’ve got be really careful the next time they do such things.
“And next time there’s a flu outbreak don’t go to the media but go to through the Village Councils to inform the villages but don’t tell the whole world that we have people who have got the flu.
“I’m speaking from the heart and not for publicity.”
He went on to say that with the government sector they get paid no matter what but the private sector depend on their own efforts to get paid.
“There are two sectors in Samoa the government sector and the private sector, the government sector they are not worried because rain or shine they still get paid but for us here in the private sector, rain or shine it depends on our work if we get paid,” he said.
“So they must be careful when they act as they have done because it will affect us here on this side.
“[And] also I would like the people of the world to disregard the statement made by our Ministry of Health and please come to Samoa.
“We are located in the centre of the Pacific and we are isolated from all the trouble of the world and we are clean, we are green and we are friendly people so come to Samoa and enjoy your stay.”