Some Associate Ministers get drunk and badmouth Samoa Airways.
The allegation was made by the Member of Parliament for Gagagifomauga No. 3, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, in Parliament when he addressed the 2018/2019 Budget. He did not name anyone in particular.
But the claim was made when Laauli was encouraging the Minister of Samoa Airways, Lautafi Fio Purcell, when he turned his attention to Associate Ministers.
“My only disappointment is that there are some Associate Ministers who are badmouthing the airline,” he said.
“There are Associate Ministers who get drunk and talk negatively about the airline, saying it’s not going to work. That’s where the leak is. My advice to these people is to stop it.”
La’auli’s claim was immediately disputed.
“These are unfounded allegations,” one Associate Minister told Parliament. “He should tell us who the Associate Minister is.”
The Associate Minister of the Ministry of Prime Minister, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga, agreed.
“I remember I was on a trip two months ago with Laauli on Samoa Airways, I envied him because he sat at business class, but I sat at the back,” Peseta said.
“So I don’t understand if it is me whom he is referring to. Also I don’t know about my fellow associate Ministers if they drink alcohol …. so it would be better for him to tell us who the Associate Minister is because there are many of us.”
Peseta was supported by the Associate Minister of Works and Member of Parliament for Sagaga le Usoga, Seiuli Ueligitone. He said the allegation is serious and he demanded to know who the Associate Minister was.
Aiga i le Tai’s Member of Parliament asked for the general statements to be removed.
“Tell us exactly who it is. Just say Peseta’s name if it’s him,” he said.
But Salega East’s M.P., Olo Fiti Vaai, saw the humour in the debate.
“I just want to make a small point,” he said. “This means the Ministers are not working with the Associate Minsters. It means the Associate Ministers are betraying their Ministers… no wonder the Ministers don’t give them more responsibilities.”
At that point, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, joined the conversation.
“I honestly thought my Associate Minister would not take the floor,” he said referring to Peseta, “because it could easily be interpreted as these guys dragging their fight in here, because they are still fighting.”
Tuilaepa was referring to a longstanding Court battle between Laauli and Peseta over a business venture that has since turned sour.
“But maybe Laauli is right,” Tuilaepa continued, “Laauli come and tell me who it is.”
When La’auli returned to the floor, he issued a general apology to the Associate Ministers.
“But you should be observant and listen to my choice of words. I said there are some Associate Minsters. The person knows himself. I don’t have to say it. He knows it.”
Turning his attention to Peseta, Laauli said: “To my brother Peseta, don’t worry, I can never do anything bad to you. I will never badmouth you, I never do that. But let’s continue to meet (at Court) where you wanted us to go in the first place.”
Fa’asaleleaga No. 2 M.P. Pau Sefo Pau, could not help himself.
“Mr. Speaker, I was part of the trip the Associate Minister is talking about. I can confirm that the M.P. (La’auli) sat at the front while Peseta sat the back. I was in the middle.”
In reference to Laauli and Peseta’s Court battle, Pau said: “This is why I took a law course…perhaps I’ll be the one doing their cases from now on so they don’t waste any more money on lawyers from overseas.”
La’auli responded that people support the airline in different ways.
“Pau and Peseta paid for economy tickets. As for me, even though business class was expensive, that is my support. It was money from my own pocket. I paid my first class to travel to support Lautafi and his airline. That’s the difference between commitments.”
Peseta said La’auli has “more money than me.”
“Pau is correct, we all travelled together. I thought that since Pa’u runs a business he could afford the business class but it was only La’auli who could afford those fares between two and three thousand tala.
“Thank you Laauli that you can afford those expensive fares.”
Minster Lautafi objected to make a correction.
He said the airfares are nowhere near the amounts quoted by the Members of Parliament.
“We are now flying for $400 one way, it’s nowhere near $3000. The business class we have now is the same fare we had when we were flying economy class with Virgin and Air New Zealand.”
As for Associate Ministers badmouthing the airline, Lautafi challenged the Cabinet Ministers to let the Associate Ministers fly business class.
“When I travel with my Associate Minister, I pay his fare to travel business class so that he wont criticise our airline.”
Prior to that, Laauli had congratulated Minister Lautafi for a job well done with the Airline.
“Don’t give up on encouraging our people, everywhere every time you have the opportunity, encourage them to fly Samoa Airways. With the different churches, there are ten different conferences held in Samoa every year. They come from all over the world.
“If our people support our airline, before the end of the year you will already have three or four more aircrafts.”