Conflicting stories emerged in Parliament this week about seven acres set aside at Nu’u for Radio 2AP.
Whereas the Government claims that the estate has already been made available, the Opposition Party says there is nothing there.
The estate is among 36 acres of Government property at Nu’u, the Minister of Finance, FaumuinaTiatiaLiuga revealed in Parliament this week.
Although there are no plans to immediately develop the seven acres, Faumuina told Parliament that if the need arises for Radio 2AP to relocate given the volatile climate situation, the land is already available.
The plan surfaced during the discussion of the Supplementary Budget where $900,000 is proposed for the beginning of the construction of a new 2AP building at Mulinu’u.Faumuina said the money is only to begin the project.
“That means if the need for more funds arise, we will have to look at it when we discuss future budgets,” he said.
But Gagaemauga No 2 MP, LevaopoloTalatonuquestioned the allocation of funds. He told Parliament that in 2010 when the report about the tsunami funds was made available, $2million of that money was set aside for the communication sector.
Levao said the money was intended to repair the damage to communication infrastructure at Aleipata and to improve Radio 2AP.
As a former Chairman of the Parliament’s Communications Committee, Levao also questioned the availability of the seven acres.
“The truth is that there is no seven acres,” he said. “When we went on an inspection visit there, we found that families were living there. So there was no land.”
But the Minister of Finance insisted that the estate was already available. He admitted that while families had been leasing the land, they have since been told to relocate.
He reminded that there are no immediate plans for the estate but it remains a very important part of the government’s plans to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Associate Minister and MP for AlatauaiSisifo, Lafaitele Patrick Leiataualesa supported the Minister. He said he was the vice chairman of the committee during Levao’s time. He confirmed that there was land.
“But it’s nowhere near seven acres,” Levao fired back.
The Minister of Finance explained that the seven acres was within 36 acres of Government land in the area. The land was largely used by families for cattle farms but they have all been asked to move out, Faumuina said.
Prime Minister TuilaepaSa’ileleMalielegaoi then took the floor to assuage fears about the availability of the estate.
“There is nothing to worry about,” he said. “The problem with the MP is that he’s talking about things that happened two or three years ago.”
The Prime Minister told Levao to stop being absent from Parliament sessions. He said if the Opposition MP had attended regularly, he would understand everything.
Tuilaepa also took a jab at the Opposition leader, PalusalueFa’apo II.
“This why we gave you a car,” he said, “so you can spy on everything that’s happening.”
During the post cyclone Evan inspection visits, Tuilaepa said he kept looking out for the opposition vehicle but he couldn't see them. Referring to the brand new Toyota Prado given to Palusalue last year, the Prime Minister said the vehicle has many seats that would fit all the Tautua Samoa MPs.
In case there are not enough seats, the Prime Minister joked that the “front” and “the top” part of the vehicle were available.
But Palusalue was not too pleased.
“When we go out on our inspection visits, we stop, get out of our vehicles and talk to people,” he said. “We don't announce to the country that we are coming for an inspection and then we invite the TV to come and film us.”
Palusalue said the Government’s inspection visits were a joke where a long procession of speeding vehicles often frightens people.
Getting back to the estate for the 2AP at Nu’u, Palusalue said there were only two acres available.
Faumuina disputed this.
In support, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the size of the land was not important.
“What’s important is that the land is made available,” he said.
“Whether its seven, two or half an acre, it’s irrelevant.”
Tuilaepa said rubbished the Opposition’s concerns saying they were wasting time. He reiterated his earlier claim that members of the opposition were merely interested in point scoring against the government.
Palusalue rejected this.
“We are not looking for points,” he said. “We want the truth.”
The government’s decision to establish a Family Court couldn’t have come at a better time. As a matter of fact, it was long overdue.
Still, it might have come a little late but better late than never.
No doubt attention will fall heavily over the next few days on a disagreement between the Prime Minister and one of his former Finance ministers.
It’s the smallest details that can trip us up – sometimes with near fatal consequences.
Case in point, last week, driving out towards Malua from Vaitele.
One of Upolu’s two ambulances came past the other way, siren on.
Perhaps Prime Minister Tuilaepa should slow down. He might get hurt loading so much unnecessary strain on himself. Perhaps he should come down to earth and think like normal people do.