Samoa Airways, O.L.P. and threats raised in Parliament

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Two imminent threats were identified in Parliament this week.

The first threat was raised by former Speaker and Cabinet Minister, La’auliolemalietoa Leauatea Schmidt, on Tuesday when he finally addressed Parliament after a long absence.

The threat relates to the future of the Government’s latest multi-million-tala project called Samoa Airways. In raising the alarm, La’auli cautioned the Minister responsible for Samoa Airways, Lautafi Fio Purcell.

Warned La’auli: “To the Minister responsible for Samoa Airways, Air New Zealand is out to kill our company.”

Well that’s certainly a bit extreme isn’t it, but La’auli reckoned he had a point. He said he has watched with caution how Air New Zealand has gone all out to heighten the competition on the Samoa route.

“All of a sudden we see them doing things they never did before. They have suddenly reduced their airfares,” said La’auli. “Where were they when our people were paying $2000 to $3000 to fly one way? Where were they all this time when our travellers needed help with expensive airfares?”

La’auli went on to caution that Air New Zealand is also increasing the frequency of their flights by bringing in bigger aircraft, making it difficult for Samoa Airways to compete.

We accept that poor old La’auli has been bursting at the seams to make a point since his long absence from Parliament. But how he could classify increased competition as a threat to Samoa, let alone Samoa Airways, is beyond me. 

What is wrong with Air New Zealand reducing their fares? 

And what’s wrong with the airline bringing in bigger planes? Bigger planes mean more seats to fill, which will ultimately translate to lower fares as airlines push to fill those seats. It’s that simple. 

How can that be a threat to Samoa? 

Shouldn’t the Government be encouraged to congratulate Air New Zealand and encourage other airlines flying to Samoa to do the same? And wouldn’t all these efforts result in filling up hotel rooms with the benefits spilling all the way down to those kids selling leis on the streets?

Sometimes what these Parliamentarians say really does blow the mind. You wonder if they actually take the time to think about what they are saying rather than just blurting it out for the sake of sounding good to the ears of the Prime Minister.

Which brings us to the second threat highlighted in Parliament this week. This time, the Associate Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, raised concerns about what he described as an “internal threat”. He was referring to online and social media users abusing their freedom to hurt people.

 “We must stop this rude and inappropriate behaviour,” Leala said.  “We must put an end to this practice where these people misuse and abuse tools that should be used for development. The internet is a useful tool that can help people move forward.”

The Associate Minister did not name anyone in particular, but we can hazard a guess that he was referring to Samoa’s most wanted anonymous blogger, O.L.P.

 “What’s happening in our country is no longer a secret. Where these people are using these things to stir up and break up our Government. 

“We should be proud as a nation. It has been more than 30 years since the Government has successfully led this country. We have been making a lot of progress and we are praised by other nations looking in for our development and political stability. 

“But the threat we’ve got comes from within our people, not just people living here, but people living overseas.” 

At that point, the Faleata West M.P. directed a challenge to the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupai.

 “Your honour, the Minister of Communications, they should have been looked up and found a long time ago,” he said about these bloggers. 

“If you’ve found them, bring them so we can sue them. Take them to Court, let’s do it because what they are doing is not good, it is inappropriate.”

We agree with Leala to an extent, especially where these anonymous bloggers hide behind these fake names while they mercilessly attack families and personal details of public figures. That is unfair.

But you’ve got to feel sorry for Minister Afamasaga. 

We say this because the Government, through the Ministry of Police, did launch a nationwide hunt for O.L.P. last year. They still haven’t found him/her. They even sent an illegal search warrant to the office of this newspaper suspecting that someone here was O.L.P.

Now let me tell you something, if we have something to say at this newspaper, we don’t have to hide behind fake names to say it. We are committed to our role and we are responsible enough to put our names – and even our photos in there – just so you know exactly who we are. That is responsible journalism.

Getting back to Leala’s challenge to the Minister, how on earth is poor Afamasaga going to find these bloggers? 

If he has tried and failed what more can he do? Besides, didn’t this Government recently revive an ancient piece of legislation called the Criminal Libel as part of a bid to find these bloggers? How are we going with that by the way? 

Somebody should tell us.

The point is that these so-called threats seem very insignificant when you look at the reality in Samoa where so many families are without very basic needs like water and electricity. They pale into comparison when you look at these children hawking goods on the streets day and night. Those are the real threats Parliament should be concentrating on.

It should also consider the threat of corruption that is still not being addressed from many years ago. Think of the O.P.C. report. But then that’s a story for another day.

Have a great Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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