The year that was

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<p><strong>E.P.C POWER: The C.E.O Tologata Tile Tuimalealiifano had a rough start to 2015.</strong></p>
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E.P.C POWER: The C.E.O Tologata Tile Tuimalealiifano had a rough start to 2015.


Compiled by Marj Moore

January 2015

Samoa got off to a great start in 2015 when it was named as one of the top ten ethical destinations. Ethical Traveller said Samoa was doing “the most to promote human rights, preserve their environment and support social welfare as well as offering natural beauty, outdoor activities and meaningful interaction with the locals.”

Meanwhile the Peniamina twins Elijah and Enoch provided a double reason for celebration as they took out the honour for being the first babies born in 2015 at Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital.

As is tradition, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, the Masiofo, Her Highness Filifilia Tamasese joined political and church leaders for the official opening of the National Prayer and Fasting Week at the Prayer House on Mt Vaea.

Seven employees at the Electric Power Corporation faced a dismal beginning of 2015 when it was confirmed they had been sacked for stealing and selling property belonging to E.P.C.

In international sports news, young Samoan heavyweight boxer, Joseph Parker continued his upward rise and accepted an invitation to spar with world champion Wladimir Klitschko. 

Not so happy was a businesswoman, Ms Moe Lei Sam who had heard that Faleolo International Airport might be taken over by the Chinese. However, the General Manager of the Airport Authority, Magele Hoe J. Viali, assured her this was not true. Instead he announced that the Shanghai Construction Company from China were contracted to rebuild the Faleolo Terminal buildings, but the airport was not being sold to the Government of China.

E.P.C. was back in the headlines again with its General Manager, Tologata Tile Tuimaleali’ifano announcing in the Corporation’s Annual Report that revenue dropped by more than 80 per cent from 2012 to 2013.

A change to the Samoa National Provident Fund scheme  where less money would be available for loans for contributors was met with public dismay and the Whip for the Tautua Samoa Party, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi was one of the first to voice those concerns.

At Apia Park, the busy Chinese Shanghai Construction company of 100 Chinese workers and 10 locals had been busy throughout Christmas and the New Year reported Deputy Project Manager, Hong Liang Da in a race to complete the multi-million tala facelift of the main stadium area in readiness for an historic rugby game against the All Blacks later in the year.

It was a proud moment for Erna Fotuofa’amanuiaga Takazawa, of Tufuiopa when she was named as one of 60 young people from across the Commonwealth who would receive the Queen's Young Leaders Award. Ms. Takazawa heads the Samoa Vision Clinic at Moto’otua, and is a Senior Optometrist at the National Health Services. The award would be presented by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, at Buckingham Palace, England, in June.

The Secretary General of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S), Reverend Dr. Iutisone Salevao, has denied reports that money issues have delayed the renovation work being done to the John Williams Building.

 “Money is not a problem for the church,” Rev. Salevao told the Samoa Observer yesterday. “The church has money but that money needs to be properly managed for such projects.”

Rev. Iutisone explained that the project has faced a number of setbacks because some of the materials are being ordered from faraway places like Germany and Singapore. The renovation should have been completed in November 2014.

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has denied that his government are a ‘bunch of cowards’ for continuing to ignore the Controller and Chief Auditor’s Report as well as the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C) report highlighting instances of “corrupt practices” within certain government bodies. Tuilaepa explained the delayed response by saying, “I’ve already announced officially during the last Parliamentary session. A response to this report is not prepared by Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister, it is prepared by the heads of government bodies.” 

Afu Faumuina Tutuila had questions for Prime Minister Tuilaepa, as the Minister of Immigration, to investigate how a Departure Prohibition Order issued by the Supreme Court had been openly violated. Her family won close to a million tala in compensation against the Village Council of Tanugamanono after their home and other buildings were burned at Tanugamanono. The Departure Prohibition Orders included Tupuola Afa Lesa from travelling abroad but the Immigration office told Mrs Tutuila, that authorization was given by the C.E.O for the Ministry of the Prime Minister, to allow Tupuola to travel to New Zealand which was "in clear violation of the Order made by the Court.” 

Prominent lawyer, Leota Raymond Schuster, called on the government to enact an anti-corruption legislation before it even considers the Citizenship Investment Bill (C.I.B.) 2014. He said other issues, such as anti-corruption mechanisms, were not looked at. Leota said Samoa is probably the only country in the region that has not enacted legislation to address this issue.

“It is imperative that Samoa has anti-corruption legislation in place to deal with the potential huge problem of unregulated corruption”. 

It was good news on the weather front in January. The cyclone season was slowing down but Samoa and the Pacific countries were not out of danger yet according to chief weatherman, Mulipola Ausetalia Titimaea, who said the predictors for cyclones were weakening.The reason? “Because the El Nino Southern Oscillation (E.S.N.O.) Index is losing strength, and now remains neutral.”

The news that 75% of students had failed Maths in the Samoa School Leaving Certificate of 2014 was met with shock and dismay by parents and pupils. One parent, Ina Va’afusuaga was convinced that the education system failed her son and other hardworking students who she says did not deserve it. She asked the Ministry of Education to look back at the Curriculum and see if what was taught in school is similar to what was put in the examination paper.

Meanwhile the first session in Parliament for 2015 got off to a fiery start when Tautua Party’s Shadow Minister of Police, Papali’i Lio Masipa’u said the overtime for hundreds of Police officers who worked throughout the S.I.D.S. conference had not been paid. The Fa’asaleleaga Member of Parliament told Parliament that each officer was promised $75 per day for all the days of the conference, which lasted nearly two weeks. The issue being raised led to Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, repeatedly telling members of the Opposition party to “stop listening to and spreading gossip.”

The long-awaited Government response to Officers of the Parliament Committee (O.P.C.) recommendations after the Chief Auditor highlighted several instances of mismanagement and corrupt practises in the government finally arrived. It was dismissed when the P.M. said "“The overspending stated in the O.P.C report is incorrect as it was not actual cash spent by the Corporation but a book entry which relates to the depreciation of its non-current assets. The other underestimated spending was related to maintenance of the Golf Course and payment for electricity however other operating expenses were within budget levels.”

On the sports front, the Commonwealth Youth Games countdown began with the official launch of the Sponsorship Campaign by the Chairman of the Samoa CYG Organising Committee and Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. The winning medal and mascot winners were announced, Nadya Va'a and Sale Tago.

A combined message was issued from the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Police as they stepped up the enforcement of the country’s Compulsory Education Law. “Selling goods to young people who should be in school and encouraging them to re-sell it is illegal and it could land you in jail.”

With most students returning to school, the Ministries said they would have three teams of officials monitoring areas where young street vendors are known to congregate instead of going to school.

Papali'i Niko Lee Hang

Papali'i Niko Lee Hang

Response to the Government’s dismissal of the OPC recommendations was not long in coming. The Associate Minister of Public Enterprises, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, and the Associate Minister of Education, Tu'u’u Anasi’i Leota, rejected the government’s official response. They said the five-page response signed by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sai’lele Malielegaoi, to the Committee’s 70-page report, was “unjust,” “insulting” and “disgraceful.”

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.), Fa’amoetauloa Dr. Faale Tumali’i, dismissed a claim that the government had been giving out free air condition units. The claim was made by Tautua’s Faleata West M.P. Aveau Niko Palamo, who claimed that one individual received more than 30 units. The Minister told Parliament that the units in question were given to selected people for climate change purposes. They were also distributed among government Ministries and Corporations, he said.

Meanwhile the P.M. was having difficulties with M.P.s in his own party. In an exchange Tuilaepa claimed that Tuu’u Anasi’i Leota had distanced himself from the values of the H.R.P.P. and suggested he resign. Later the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, poured cold water on a threat of legal action against officials implicated in corrupt activities within the government. What’s more, the government’s official response to the claims was passed by Parliament last night without it being subjected to a discussion in the House, he said.

A three-hour H.R.P.P. Caucus meeting was held where the future of two members of the party was discussed.

Papali’i Niko Lee Hang confirmed that he and Tu'u'u were asked to resign. 

“We were accused of causing tension within the party,” said Papali’i. “He (Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi) was unhappy with us talking to the newspaper (The Samoa Observer).” Papali’i was referring to a front-page story on the Sunday Samoan where they rejected the government’s response to the O.P.C, calling it “unjust” and “disgraceful”.

Some light relief from the world of politics came with the news that the Walt Disney Animation Studios had turned the searchlight on Samoa in their global casting call for a key role for their upcoming feature ‘Moana’. The casting team of Fiona Collins and Naea Asolelei To’alepai would be holding auditions for a young woman between the ages of 14 and 20 with a strong singing voice and acting skills in Upolu and Savai’i.

    

February 2015

For the Samoa Observer, the month of February started with the receipt of a letter from the law firm of Clarke Ey threatening to sue. At issue was a complaint by certain families concerned about the location of a gas shop which they thought would pose a danger to them. The letter had been written by families led by Figa Kleis-Ryan. In the letter to the Observer, Clarke Eye said, “Our client has fully complied with all legal requirements for the establishment and conduct of its operations including the obtaining of PUMA consents and the conduct of inspections by the Fire and Emergency Services Authority, the Accident Compensation Corporation and other government agencies." 

To grow the Samoan economy, the government should attract people to invest in export enterprise already established here. That was the opinion of the President of the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters (S.A.M.E.), Tagaloa Eddie Wilson. On the other hand, the establishment of the Citizenship Investment Bill (C.I.B.) 2014, Tagaloa claimed would kill the businesses that are already here.

The fight for justice in relation to corrupt practises exposed within certain government bodies is not over. That was the declaration from Associate Ministers, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang and Tuu’u Anasi’i Leota who said that although Parliamentary proceedings may have bound their hands, to suggest that they have given up the fight for justice was wrong. Papali’i and Tu’u’u said there are other avenues to tackle the dishonesty that revealed by the Controller and Chief Auditor in his 2010 report and supported by the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C.) in their report tabled in the House last year. 

Muagututagata Peter Ah Him

Muagututagata Peter Ah Him

In the courts, Member of Parliament and Associate Minister of Trade, Muagututagata Peter Ah Him, was found guilty of two charges after a Chinese company in which he is a shareholder, sued him.

The first charge was that between January and March 2013, Muagututagata used a false document as if it was genuine. 

The second charge was that Muagututagata “with intent to defraud Grand Ocean Industries by false pretense used a document number to cause or induce Grand Ocean Industries to make or execute valuable security namely a cheque in the amount of $62,454.50ST.”

Meanwhile in the Ministry of Justice, Courts and Administration an investigation was underway after a complaint was lodged that a Departure Prohibited Order issued by the Court was breached. 

Chief Executive Officer, Masinalupe Tusipa Masinalupe, said his Office was investigating how the Order was breached.

He explained that any persons implicated by a Stop Order can only leave the country if they make an application and is approved by the Court. 

The letter was written by complainant Afu Faumuina Tutuila and  the matai and businessman accused of breaching the D.P.O. was Tupuola Afa Lesa. 

A one year-old dispute between the government and the village of Ta’elefaga, Fagaloa, over a foul smell emanating from the Government’s hydro power plant located there, is nowhere near resolved.

On Wednesday more than thirty representatives from Ta’elefaga met with the Minister of Works, Manu’alesagalala Enokati Posala, in an attempt to put an end to the dispute. According to Ta’elefaga’s high chief, Leuta Sialafau Valoaga, the government has let them down. 

Back in the Courts, a Supreme Court Judge, Lesatele Rapi Va’ai ruled in favour of an application for security costs from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.), the Attorney General and Ruby Drake against Kirita Maria Pune. 

The ruling ordered Mrs. Pune to pay a total of $30,000 to the Registrar of the Court as security for costs for the three defendants. 

The matter however stemmed from a case that dates back to 2003 involving a complaint lodged by 70 year old Mrs. Pune against the M.N.R.E. and the Attorney General over a dispute relating to the transfer of a piece of land at Tuloto, Apia. 

A pregnant mother had four operations when she went to the hospital to have her baby, and during part of that time her womb had apparently “remained open”.

Husband of the pregnant woman, Mr Aigaga said at that time he went to the Minister of Health, DrTuitama Leao Talalelei Tuitama, for help, and asked that his wife be taken to New Zealand for a proper checkup.

A report from Dr Matalavea admitted this was an unusual situation but he believed correct processes had been done to manage her complications.

“Somehow, the womb had been infected and the doctors decided to clean her womb to clear it. It was the 13th of January that the womb was left open to clean and clear the infection, and it was stitched back together last Thursday."

The elderly woman who was ordered by a Supreme Court Judge last week to pay security costs of $30,000 to the Attorney General, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and lawyer, Ruby Drake in an on-going land dispute believes the ruling is a “win” for her family. 

That confirmation came from Maria Kolotita Kirita  Pune’s daughter Puleiti Clara Gray.  Ms. Gray is the family’s spokesperson. She claims that their family is “elated with the decision from His Honour Rapi Va’ai”. 

”This was taking into “consideration that collectively, they were seeking ST$163,000” in security costs.  

In our neighbouring country of Australia, the country’s leader was under threat. Assuming the vast majority of prime minister, Mr. Abbott’s front bench stuck solid, then about two thirds of his own backbench effectively issued a vote of no confidence against the leader.

All that aside, Mr. Abbott had a 22 vote margin and that was strong enough to lead the party with authority.

On the local front, a scam was uncovered when a palagi man named Grant Holland arrived in Samoa claiming he was a church minister coming to help a troubled woman named Vaioleti Stowers who, at the time, was serving a jail term at Tafaigata Prison.

Grant Holland and Vaioleti Stowers were soon to become partners in alleged crime, and from there they devised a scam aimed at profiting from selling cars they’d rented.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, downplayed concerns about the government allowing Foreign Licensed Fishing Vessels to fish in Samoa’s Exclusive Zone saying; “If we can issue a billion licenses so be it.”

He insisted that “the more the licenses issued to foreign companies the better

 “It is not important how many licenses are issued,” said the Prime Minister. 

He explained, Samoa has a very small fishing zone and fish don’t belong to Samoa “they are migrating species. 

“There is nothing to worry about having a small (fishing) zone,” said Tuilaepa. 

However not everyone agreed.

Issuing “one billion licenses” to foreign fishing vessels to fish in Samoa’s Exclusive Economic Zone (E.E.Z.) would only add more burdens to an industry that is already struggling, especially for the small alias. 

This was the concern raised by some of the owners of small fishing alias and  fishermen at the Savalalo fish market. 

 “The number of fish found today is not the same as in the past,” said the businesswoman. 

 “I know the Prime Minister said it’s a migrating species, but our concern is overfishing and the sustainability of fish.”

In a subsequent interview with the Prime Minister on the fishing license issue, Tuilaepa claimed he was misquoted.

I said 100 billion licences, not 1 billion!  That’s much too small.  Presently there are only 6000 fishing vessels registered with the Tuna Commission, so to meet that impossible target may take 10,000 years!  But when that time comes, the government of the day will be able to berth the vessels end to end and Samoans can stroll barefoot from Apia to South Auckland in Kiwiland!”

 It was a media ban when an inspection team from the New Zealand Rugby Union arrived in the country for a site visit and to discuss other matters related to the Manu Samoa-All Blacks game this year 

The media spokesperson at the Samoa Rugby Union, Rula Su’a said that there would be a press release that prepared for the media afterwards.

Major changes at Samoa’s top government secondary school, Samoa College were announced with management to be handed over to the Samoa College Old Pupils Association (S.C.O.P.A.).

Confirmation came from the chairman of S.C.O.P.A., Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, 

who said that the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, as part of their long term plans, wanted to change the name of the school to Vaivase College. 

Deputy Prime Minister, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo dismissed fears of Samoan citizenship being sold to foreign investors saying: “such hearsay (upu faalele) that citizenship will be sold are unfounded comments made to frighten people.”

Fonotoe, the Minister for the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour made the comments in parliament during the second reading of the Citizenship Bill 2014 yesterday. 

“No country sells passport for free,” said the Deputy Prime Minister. “It is clear in legislation that selling passports is taboo." 

Several H.R.P.P. Members of Parliament voiced concerns about the Citizenship Investment Bill 2014 created by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour which was on its second reading.   

Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana Gidlow.

Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana Gidlow.

First to speak was the Associate Minister of Health, Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana Gidlow who said she believed “the legislation poses worry and weaknesses. 

“Such weaknesses are that once a person is granted citizenship under the legislation, they have equal rights to any other citizen of Samoa and we cannot separate them (from us); it would be racist. 

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, compared criticisms of the controversial Citizenship Investment Bill 2014 to Adolf Hitler in response to comments from a member of the Opposition party.

Aveau Niko Palamo raised concerns over the growing number of businesses run by Asians in Apia. 

“There are people with money from Asia that are occupying town. How many (pieces) of land have they bought to set up their shops and others in Vaitele?

“Are you suggesting we should stop our people from marrying others from overseas? You are starting to sound like Hitler (mea faahitler au mea),” said Tuilaepa.

Following his conviction for two charges in Court, the Member of Parliament for Sagaga Le Usoga, Muagututagata Peter Ah Him resigned.

 “I cannot sit and not act upon this matter as it affects my family, especially my beloved constituency.”

The matter the M.P. was referring to was the outcome of a Court hearing where he was found guilty of two charges filed by a Chinese company of which he was a shareholder.

The Speaker of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polta’ivao, expressed his disappointment in a letter to the Minister of the Office of the Electoral Commission, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

He claimed that recommendations made by a Parliamentary Select Committee in relation to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2014 had been ignored.

Tabled by Fiame last year, the Bill proposes to abolish the Individual Voters seats at the next General Election. The bill also included the requirements for traditional presentations, or o'o, to be performed after the election instead of the current practice.

The Vice President of the World Bank for East Asia and Pacific, Axel van Trotsenburg, has emphasised the importance of strong debt management for Samoa. The Vice President said that from his experience in dealing with debt issues in similar small countries, it is vital for the government to manage Samoa’s foreign debt well. 

“We are interested in countries maintaining a strong position and particularly sustainable debt. I believe this can be done and I have confidence that also here in Samoa government is working towards that goal.”

It was a double tragedy for a 43-year-old mother of four from Togafu’afu’a and Nu’u, Celia Crichton Felise. 

First she lost her nine-year-old son, Felise Jr. due to a mysterious illness and just when they were about to bury him, her 66-year-old husband, Felise Sam Chong, died. The tragic turn of events have left the mother angry and lonely.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, used the official opening of the Vailima Marist Sevens to rally the Samoan rugby community to rise up.

He challenged the players, coaches, clubs and referees yesterday when he spoke before hundreds of players taking part in the three-day tournament. 

Referring to the recent performance of the Manu Samoa Sevens on the World Rugby Sevens Series where the team has slipped below the top 10 in the rankings, Tuilaepa said the “low and embarrassing level of our Sevens rugby” is no longer a secret. He also lamented the lack of support play and leadership.

The month ended on a high note with some good news for kava growers in Samoa and the Pacific.

The Upper Administrative Court in Muenster, Germany, has rejected an appeal by the German Health Authorities and reaffirmed the ruling of the Administrative Court of Cologne in June 2014. The ruling in question had found that the ban on kava was both unreasonable and unlawful.

Now the most recent decision was confirmed in a statement issued by the International Kava Executive Council (I.K.E.C) Chairman, Tagaloa Eddie Wilson.

However for a man who earned $600 from selling dried sea cucumbers to an unknown Chinese man, the news was not so positive.

Seveli Feliuai, 49, of Toamua has been hit with a fine of $2,100. When he was charged, some 431 kgs of sea cucumbers were found in his possession.

He claimed he only knew that it was for the man’s food. He said he was not aware that it was being on sold by the Chinese man. Yesterday, Feliuai was fined after being found guilty of operating a fish-processing establishment for sea cucumbers without a license 

 

March 2015

The third month of the year began with the wife of the Chief Justice issuing a cautionary warning to the general public. A known conwoman had entered Mrs Sapolu’s shop and while she was otherwise engaged, had made off with hundreds of tala. She was later apprehended and charged.

At Samoa College, change was in the air as consultations were underway between M.E.S.C. and key stakeholders to discuss the future of the college being turned over to the Samoa College Old Pupils Association (S.C.O.P.A.) to manage

In the courts, a former Member of Parliament and Associate Minister of Trade, Muagututagata Peter Ah Him, was fined $30,000 by the Supreme Court for presenting a false document and fraud. The decision was delivered by Supreme Court Justice, Vui Clarence Nelson. While the sentence was being read out, Muagututagata appeared relieved when it was clear he would not have to serve a term in prison. 

And back in Parliament, the Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II, described what he called an attempt to ignore recommendations made by a Parliamentary Select Committee in relation to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2014. Palusalue said the clash now was over Parliamentary procedures where recommendations should be relayed for the House to decide instead of being submitted to Cabinet as had happened.

Conditions of those held in Police custody were brought to the attention of the Chief Justice by lawyer, Maiava Visekota Peteru. Maiava. She said her client claimed he not had a shower in some time and been poorly fed and cared for. However another lawyer from the Attorney General’s Office, Precious Chang, denied the allegations about the food. She said the accused men were well fed and looked after.

Pacific relationships came under the focus when New Zealand author Hager, in conjunction with the New Zealand Herald and the Intercept news site, revealed how New Zealand's spies are targeting the entire email, phone and social media communications of the country's closest, friendliest and most vulnerable neighbours, the Pacific islands. The information from across the Pacific is collected by New Zealand but sent on to the United States' National Security Agency to plug holes in its global spying network.

It was announced that a fish-processing factory, owned by Taiwan’s Yuh Yow Fishery, was locally registered under the name of Apia Deep Fishing Company and would be up and running at the Matautu Wharf in April. Japan and American Samoa are its major export markets.  

Public interest in the advertised position of Police Commissioner was high when the the Public Service Commission (P.S.C) denied a claim that it had moved to change the job description for the position of Police Commissioner.

“The allegation is not true,” said an Assistant Chief Executive Officer, who asked that the comment be attributed to the P.S.C. 

“A job description cannot be changed after it has been advertised so it’s not true.”

At the Ministry of Revenue, Comptroller of Customs, Pitolau Lusia Leau said she was unable to comment on the suspension of a Principal Officer and one other officer at Customs.

“It has been referred to the Public Service Commission,” said her secretary.

Brianna Fruean.

Brianna Fruean.

On the good news front, sixteen-year-old Brianna Fruean made history by becoming the youngest recipient of the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Awards, the Climate Change, Environment Protection Award in London 

She was also the only recipient from the Pacific. Thousands had applied for the Commonwealth Awards. Ms. Fruean was among 16 finalists. 

It was also a time to celebrate and reflect on progress for the Samoa Victims Support Group. They took to the streets with a parade on Beach Road led by prominent doctor, Professor Dr. Satupa’itea Viali to celebrate “A decade of transformation.”

Illustrating the fact that technology can be grossly misused, a video posted on Facebook showing a college student being beaten by another student while other students looked on, went viral. It caused widespread outrage among the Samoan community who strongly condemned the behavior of the students. 

A few hours after the video was uploaded earlier this week, it had attracted more than 25,000 views. 

After the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang presented the Prime Minister with “documentary evidences” that public servants colluded to "defraud public funds" at the Samoa Land Corporation, the Prime Minister gave the government's response. He acknowledged the issues raised by both the Chief Auditor and O.P.C, and said remedial actions have been taken and the lessons from the reports have been incorporated by the government to improve its performance, heading into the future.

The Tautua Party was just stirring things up, said the Prime Minister as he addressed concerns about the divisions of some constituencies 

“Villages like Faleasi’u and Fasito’o know where the line is drawn between their constituencies,” said Tuilaepa. 

“It’s just Falealili and Safata that have small changes and the same goes for the town area.

However events soon after revealed that not everyone was happy with the “small changes” contained in the Electoral Amendment Bill as voters and leaders of the Safata constituency presented a petition to Parliament. 

Safata is represented in Parliament by the leader of the Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II and Manu’alesagalala Enokati Posala. Palusalue said the proposed change was wrong and unnecessary and violated Safata’s traditional boundaries. 

The opening hours of the General Outpatients clinic at the national hospital drew criticism from the public despite being these claims being dismissed by the Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr Leao Tuitama.

From Monday to Friday, the General Outpatient opens from 8am until 10pm,  Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, it is opened from 8am to 4pm.

Members of the public claim they have been turned away after 10pm. In one instance, a mother said at closing time, the doctor just packed up and left.

An angry, frustrated 80 year old Ululoloa resident did not hold back when he complained to the media about inaction from the Electric Power Corporation. Josef Baukes claimed that for eight years he had been pleading with E.P.C to cut the trees next to the electricity lines with no action taken. 

"This issue is serious, it’s about safety. When the wind blows them on power lines, not only will they block the road for vehicles to get around in during times of emergencies, you have to think of the live wires and what that means for the safety of our people.”

It was payback time at H.R.P.P. when Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, issued a veiled threat against the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang.

“I’m praying that the light will reach him so he will remember I have not said anything or publicised any of the foolish things he did at the time when he was a Cabinet Minister,” Tuilaepa said. “

The Prime Minister also maintained that the former Minister of Finance, FaumuinaTiatia Liuga, did not break the law during his time at the Samoa Land Corporation.

In Parliament, the Electoral Amendment Bill 2015 was passed.

The Individual Voters roll no longer exists and instead, for next year’s General Election, it will be replaced by two Urban Constituency seats.

The new law also targets the problem of electors residing within the Faleata and Vaimauga constituencies who have swelled the rolls of constituencies in rural areas.

Following the Prime Minister’s threat of disclosure against Papalii Niko Lee Hang, Lee Hang, responded and dared the Prime Minister to come clean. 

“My question to the Prime Minister is that why make a threat when he doesn't say what I did wrong.”

“That’s being personal, I call that very dirty politics so I dare him to tell the public what I did wrong when I was the Minister. I know he is only saying these things because he doesn't have an answer to the issues I’ve raised with him.”

Parliament heated up again when discussions centred on the Samoa Ports Authority. The transfer of ownership of the Mulifanua and Salelologa ports from the Samoa Ports Authority to the Samoa Shipping Corporation would mean more sufficient and better services for everyone, according to the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.  But Opposition Leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II said that the real reason for the transfer was that the Samoa Ports Authority is broke.

This claim led to a heated debate in parliament and personal accusations by the Prime Minister of the Opposition leader’s performance when he had been a Minister in parliament.

The elections were forefront in the news as four H.R.P.P. candidates announced they would vie for the vacant Sagaga le Usoga seat. The candidates are Fata Paulo Seuseu, of Afega, Vaotu’ua Maulolo, of Afega, Seiuli Ueligitone, of Malie and Logo Fetaomi Futialo, of Tuana’i

The Secretary General of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, Reverend Dr. Iutisone Salevao, is adamant that the church has done nothing wrong when he responded to allegations from an unhappy Revered Kerita Reupena, who has accused the leadership of the C.C.C.S church of lacking in accountability and transparency. Based in Ipswich, Queensland Australia, Reverend Reupena raised the questions after the church’s Committee of Elders decided to remove the positions of Elder as well as the Director for the Queensland District from him.

Rev. Reupena hired lawyer, Leuluaiali’i Olinda Woodroffe, to fight his case.

The Ministry of Police announced Egon Keil of Malololelei and Moto’otua was confirmed as Police Commissioner by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. Born and raised in Samoa, the new Commissioner is the son of Tualagi Rasmussen and businessman, Maposua Rudolph Keil. Mr Keil is a former police officer with the Los Angeles Department of Police (L.A.P.D.) in the United States and also the owner of Speedy Autocare at Savalalo. 

A “glitch in the payment system" of the National Health Services was blamed as the reason for issues with payments, according to the Acting General Manager of N.H.S, Leilani Galuvao. Several employees complained about the delay in payment of their Samoa National Provident Fund (S.P.N.F) contribution among other things.

A supplier also said that he had been having issues with getting payments from N.H.S.

“They keep promising me that my money will be ready soon,” said a businessman, “but I’ve getting nothing but promises.” 

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has gone cold on a challenge by the Associate Minister of Public Enterprises, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, to tell him where he had erred when he was the Finance Minister. He also refused to confirm or deny reports that he had personally apologised to Papali’i during a caucus meeting at the beginning of last week.

“It’s been resolved,” he responded.

Welcome relief from parliamentary spats came about when a vastly improved Manu Samoa Sevens came agonisingly close to an upset win over New Zealand during their semifinal of the Hong Kong Sevens..

In the end, Samoa narrowly missed out on a final berth against Fiji after a 15-14 heartbreaking loss in front of a vocal and lively Hong Kong crowd.

Samoa had earlier dismissed the high-flying Americans, 26-15, to book a semifinal spot.

There was positive news and hope for a local manufacturer of taro chips to export to Australia. Tropical Crisps was one of thirty local manufacturers and exporters who took part in a Trade Show in Sydney, Australia

Managing Director, Tanya Ott, said the Trade Fair was a success in terms of the fact that there was a lot of interest.

“We were able to increase awareness and it was attended by a lot of Samoans and Pacific islanders and we have drawn up a list of potential distributors."

 

April 2015

Gruesome details emerged in a court case of how a young accountant was strangled to death by her relative before he set fire to the house and left her to burn. Twenty one year old Elisaia Toetu pleaded guilty to a charge of murder and intentional damage.

The C.E.O. of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour Auelua Samuelu Enari confirmed that the government had to step in to resolve a dispute between members of the Samoa Farmers Federation. One of the issues was that the organization, led by president Afamasaga Toleafoa had not had an Annual General Meeting for five years. 

The National University of Samoa honoured Samoa’s award winning author, Emeritus Professor Maualaivao Albert Wendt by conferring him with an honorary degree. Professor Wendt said the degree to him was most precious because it came from the National University of Samoa and the country which is still his spiritual and cultural home.

The Prime Minister rejected claims that the government did not consult members of the public properly about its plan to promote the economic use of customary land. An Asian Development Bank report had called for the government to engage in ‘meaningful consultations’ with the public.

The C.E.O. of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Auelua Samuelu Enari has said his ministry has not received any reports of child labour. He said that it is the parents who have a relationship with employers and there is no employer-employee relationship with children.

Four matai have challenged the Prime Minister to disclose the original Asian Development Bank report to the public or debate the issue on television. The matai are Fiu Mataese Elisara, Leuleuialii Tasi Malifa, Tele’ai Dr Sapa Saifaleupolu and Lilomaiava Ken Lameta. Tuilaepa rejected the call and said the matai were probably stirring things up for a personal agenda to get money.

The Tautua Party’s Shadow Minister of Finance, Afualo Dr Wood Salele has warned the government to be more careful with its dealings with China. He noted that Samoa’s foreign debt has hit the billion mark and he claimed that more than half of this is owed to China. 

The newly-appointed Police Commissioner, Egon Keil has promised a new era of transparency and accountability in the Samoan Police Force. Mr Keil was sworn in at Mulinu’u by District Court Judge, Her Honour Mata Tuatagaloa.

Hinauri Petana has been appointed Samoa’s High Commissioner to Australia. She had retired in 2009 as C.E.O. of the Ministry of Finance and had been working as a consultant with the Asian Development Bank. 

A young girl and her mother witnessed a savage attack on a grandfather by an angry villager using a machete at Falealupo.  The incident appeared to have followed a village decision to evict the family of the machete-wielding attacker. The 68 year old was taken to Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital with extensive injuries.

The Co-ordinator of the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games said it would cost the country between 20-30 million tala. Vitolio Lui said that the cost reflects the high standard and global scope of the event. He said that preparations were well underway.

An appeal to quash a conviction against the former Associate Minister of Trade Muagututagata Peter Ah Him saw his lawyer Patrick Fepulea’i leave him in Court after telling the Justice Fisher he had not had sufficient time to prepare. The judge agreed two days had not been sufficient but declinedthe request for a two week adjournment.

Sixty six employees of the Electric Power Corporation will be made redundant according to a Cabinet decision. The Prime Minister said the Corporation had been asked to prepare redundancy packages in accordance with what employees’ entitlements.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was back on Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s hit list again after calling for the removal of New Zealand and Australia from the Pacific Islands Forum. The Fijian P.M. wants China to be included. As well as other colourful remarks, in reference to Bainimarama’s military background, Tuilaepa said his area of specialty was “to play the drum and yell left, right, stop!”

Editor in Chief, Savea Sano Malifa launched ‘The 2015 Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition’ at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel. The Pacific-wide competition is for both Samoan and English writers over the age of 18. The regional competition is a first for the greater Pacific area including island nations, New Zealand and Australia.

Professor Fui Asofou So’o was reappointed as the Vice Chancellor and President of the National University of Samoa for another three years. Professor So’o said he was humbled to be chosen again. He has led the university since 2009. 

A delegation from Faleata West visited Prime Minister in relation to a proposed division of the constituency. It was led by Ale Vena, Ulu Vaomalo Kini, Fia’ailetoa Pepe Fruean, other senior matai and they were accompanied by their M.P. Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi. In the proposed amendment, Faleata East would have two seats while Faleata West would have one. 

Former M.P. Patiu Ativalu Tunupopo announced that as High Chief of Vaiala and Moata’a he would be bestowing an honorary chiefly title on All Blacks coach, Steve Hansen. The ceremony would be held the day after the Manu Samoa–All Blacks game. 

Fiji’s P.M. Frank Bainimarama, in response to unflattering remarks from the Samoan Prime Minister, has hit back and called Tuilaepa “a lap dog” for New Zealand and Australia. 

“We have heard this yapping from the Samoan lap dog before. It really means nothing.

And again, Prime Minister Tuilaepa couldn’t resist taking the moral high ground and having the last word after hearing insults from his Fijian counterpart, Frank  Bainimarama. 

“All he understands is about military stuff. He doesn’t have any understanding about issues of international importance.”

Hundreds gathered to mark 100 years commemoration of ANZAC Day on April 25. It was a special day and also a tribute to Francis Joseph Meredith, the sole survivor of the Samoa Local Defence Force, Machine Gun Platoon in 1942.

The Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi called for the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat to be moved out of Fiji. The P.M. said he wants the issue discussed at the next Forum meeting in P.N.G.

An earthquake struck Nepal killing more than 1500 people and with many others missing and injured. The quake hit at 11.56am. The last time such a terrible quake occurred was in 1934 when 8000 people died.

The Executive Director of Women in Business Development, Adimaimalaga Tafunai was honoured with a Diane von Furstenberg (DVF) award at the United Nations in New York. Tafuna’i said she was honoured and encouraged by the faith shown in the work for Samoa and the Pacific islands.

The growing number of thefts across the country is a major concern to the Ministry of Police. Police Public Relations Officer Su’a Muliaga Tiumalu urged members of the public to protect their homes and properties. He cited six cases of theft and break ins reported in Apia alone in the previous week. 

The Controller and Chief Auditor Fuimaono Camilla Afele tabled a report dealing with the financial period of July 2011-2012 at the Agriculture Store Department which shows a missing vehicle. The government vehicle which cost about $183,000, wasused by the former Minister of Natural Resources and Environment and was not returned when his ministerial post ended in 2005. Although still recorded as an asset of the company the A.S.C. confirmed the vehicle had been written off. The report did not say where the vehicle was.   

 

May 2015

Three weeks into the job, the new Police Commissioner, Egon Keil, said changes are slowly taking place at the Ministry of Police. His vision towards achieving a high standard, accountable, transparent Police operation is on a roll. 

He admits that these first weeks have been challenging. There is lots to be changed and things to be fixed, he said.

They saved the best for last. That’s what happened yesterday when Christine Elmiger, of Team Brave Hart from New Zealand, hooked the biggest fish of the weeklong Samoa International Game Fishing Tournament.

The blue marlin weighing 116.9kgs was a beautiful sight for anglers in the tournament who have had to struggle with some rather difficult conditions throughout the week. 

More tales of woe from the Samoa Land Corporation. Despite assurances by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, that remedial actions have been taken to sort out issues – including collusion - uncovered in 2010 and 2011, the latest Controller and Auditor General’s report does not support that.

According to Fuimaono Camillo Afele’s report to Parliament for July 2011 to June 2012, actual revenue at the Corporation fell short by $7.1million while its spending exceeded $3.1million.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., the 38-year-old with the baby face and the unblemished professional boxing record, beat Manny Pacquiao with a unanimous decision in what was considered the highest-grossing bout in history. In a long-anticipated fight between the two dominant welterweights of the past decade, Mayweather stretched his record to 48-0 while quieting critics who thought he had spent years avoiding a showdown with Pacquiao, a 36-year-old fighter from the Philippines. All three judges scored the fight in favor of Mayweather.

A decision by Board Members of the Accident Compensation Corporation (A.C.C) to pay themselves Director’s fees and expenses worth $5,000 each was questioned by the Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Camillo Afele.

The report dealt with the financial period of July 2011 to June 2012. 

 “From our review of payments, we noted that total Directors’ fees and expenses included payments of $5,000 each as approved by the Board itself, raising an issue of conflict of interest, as the directors had approved the payments to themselves.” 

The Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell, has defended the government’s decision to re-tender the Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C) complex at Tuana’imato at the price of $4.5million. The decision follows a deadlock in negotiations with the bidder.

Su’a Tanielu Su’a said that the government wanted to sell the three-storey-building for $4.5 million. But the businessman said the company for whom he works, Endeavour Investment Ltd. (E.I.L), hired a structural engineer and a team to value the property and the valuation came to about $2.2 not $4.5 million. 

Heavy scrutiny of the Samoa Ports Authority for the financial period of July 2011 to June 2012 by the Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Camillo Afele has revealed there was a conflict of interest in the acquisition of the vehicle from one of two New Zealand companies used by the Authority.

The said vehicle was not openly tendered. After invitations to bid were sent out, it was won by a local company where the former General Manager was believed to be the major shareholder according to a search carried out by the audit team at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour. 

Four State Owned Enterprises (S.O.E) are up for privatization, confirmed by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Selafi Purcell,. The S.O.Es include the Samoa Post Office, Samoa Housing Corporation, Public Trust and the Agriculture Store Corporation.

He said this is part of the Government reforms to privatise, merge or outsource work. 

Women from Savai’i and Upolu who gathered to exhibit their traditional craft to celebrate National Women’s Day. 

Organized by the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, the annual event was to promote the importance of keeping the art of traditional weaving of fine mats and siapo making alive.

The Ministry said that women have contributed immensely to the social, cultural and economic development of Samoa and they are the backbone of every family and society and continue to play a crucial role in development at all levels.

The wife of the popular comedian, the late Molio’o Sumeo shared her thoughts as a mother on Mothers’ Day. As the mother of five sons, Liai Si’itia said she has always been a strong believer in the power of positive thinking. As a mother, Mrs Si'itia would make sure her sons are well dressed and presentable. She would never fuss about what her family did not have. For her, as long as there was food on the table and the house was clean, she was happy.

Quality control of imported tinned fish comes under the Ministry of Health whilst price control of the items are the concern of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour. Concerns about the quality of tinned fish do not come under the M.C.I.L. laws although the two ministries have worked together when there have been such concerns and M.C.I.L. has assisted the Ministry of Health with re-labeling and dealing with misleading information issues. This was confirmed and clarified by the M.C.I.L. , Principal Officer of Fair Trading, Ms. Gladys Fuimaono.

Seven matai from the village of Tanugamanono spent Mothers' Day weekend behind bars at Tafa’igata Prison. The matai – including the pulenu’u - were arrested last week Friday after a warrant of committal was issued by the Court for their failure to make payments to Afu Faumuina Tutuila. The arrests were confirmed by the Police Spokesperson, Su’a Muliaga Tiumalu.

 It may have been more than sixty years since her first visit to Samoa but Hollywood star, Roberta Haynes, can still perform the siva and remember a few Samoan words.

The main actress of the Return to Paradise movie performed a siva, together with the very person who had taught her all those years ago, Su’a Freida Paul.

Since the movie, the 86-year-old who lives in Florida, U.S.A., has returned to Samoa four times; the last trip being for the movie’s 50th Anniversary.

A foreigner is in shock after he was attacked and held ransom during a break-in at his house. The attack at Falealili was by a man who gave him food, two weeks earlier. The incident has been referred to the Police who are investigating.

“I recognised my assailant as one of my neighbours, [a] fa’afafine, very curly short [discoloured] hair,” the victim said. “It is embarrassing to note that this person had given me some palusami with a large friendly smile two Sundays ago".

The victim was eventually rescued and rushed to the Police Station and he has since told his story on Facebook, in a quest for help and advice. He also believes that his assailant is known for his use of ice.

Chief Justice, Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu, yesterday delivered a decision on a dispute involving senior members of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa. The decision he said would be reduced and given to all counsel in due course. 

Reverend Kerita Reupena, Minister of C.C.C.S Ipswich Australia, has taken the Church’s Komiti Fa’atonu to Court over their decision to remove him from the position of Reverend Elder as well as removing him from the said Committee. Through his lawyers, Leuluaiali’i Olinda Woodroffe and Colin Pidgeon QC, Rev. Reupena initially sought an interim injunction to stop the Church from enforcing the decisions.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has do

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