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The need for a safe Christmas season

We certainly are entering one of the most unusual Christmas seasons in recent memories. Just two weeks from today, with the exception of Cyclone Evan, it is difficult to pinpoint another time in Samoa’s modern history where the lead up to the festive season has been quite so depressed. The evidence is all around us. The usual universal displays of Christmas cheer and festive symbols and songs are more than a little bit muted. We can understand why. Besides not befitting the nation’s sombre mood, those who are most designed to delight in these displays, children, are being kept at home. Despite the reported success of last week’s two-day shutdown and the Government claiming to have vaccinated 91 per cent of its “eligible” population there is no firm sign this crisis is over yet.There will be much read into the statistic in today’s edition that the number of new infected cases has dropped to a low of perhaps several weeks (Daily Government statistics have only recently been provided so we’ve estimated - as we always do - conservatively).Like so many issues of such complexity, ask a different expert and you’ll receive a different answer.This is just one data point in a crisis that has been lingering on for, as the Samoa Observer’s reporting has revealed, for up to six weeks longer than when it was first declared by the Health Ministry. The head of the Oceania University of Medicine, Toleafoa  Dr. Viali Lameko, warned yesterday now is not the time to relax our efforts our minds.New Zealand Doctor Alan Wright, one of many foreign health professionals to whom we owe immeasurable gratitude for helping us in our hour of greatest need said he was encouraged by the declining number of people presenting with new infections. (There were just 112 people infected Monday, down from up to 200 plus a day just at the end of last month). But Dr. Wright warned that those young sick children already ravaged by measles are “sitting targets” for complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis. A British team of specialist reinforcements will arrive next week to focus on curing precisely these patients, those who might succumb to measles itself but one of its unfortunate knock on effects. One curse could very well yield to another. Other statistical modelling from University Auckland statisticians suggests even accounting for the impact of the mass vaccination the virus may not yet “peak” until the week of ChristmasWhatever the case it seems unavoidable that Christmas this year is destined to have an unusual feel this year. The Government has made no suggestion the State of Emergency will be lifted after the 30 day period from which it was declared on November 15. That could mean a very different kind of Christmas for many families; with fewer communal gatherings; a greater focus on the family; and a greater sense of introspection and sadness who for those who are missing.All we can do in this situation is urge you to follow the advice of the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, who has in today’s edition warned Samoans to take extra care over the Christmas and New Year’s period. Arrests, careless driving, drunk driving and crimes all around spiked around this period last year.If the tragic end to this year has not provided an example of why such recklessness has no place in Samoan society it is not clear what possibly could.Please let's not compound these recent tragedies by actions of our own making. Your gatherings may be smaller; the mood may be more subdued than usual, but we urge you to rejoice in those you have around you; remember how lucky that makes you; and to act accordingly. Have a happy Wednesday, Samoa.And God bless this nation. 

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Street Talk

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Public support ban of children from church services

Alofa Isaia, 25, AfegaI think there should be a ban on young children from attending church services as they are the ones most vulnerable to measles. Keeping them at home is the best option in order to lessen the risks of spreading the virus. If the children are allowed in church this will make the measles spread to other children and make them sick. For us adults we can handle the pain but the children cannot and this is why I totally support the ban on children from church services.Fotu Faafetai, 37, SavaiiI totally support the ban on children from church services to prevent the measles from spreading from one child to another. Measles can spread fast and affect everyone and the children are the most vulnerable. Church service is a part of our everyday life but the health of our children is more important to us. I have children as well and I know how painful it will be if my child got the measles and loses his or her life.Aisepka Lokeni, 57, Nu’uWe should listen to the advice from the church ministers to ban children from attending church services, as the risk of them spreading the measles to other kids is high. The Bible says we have to obey our leaders, and that is why we should listen to our leaders and save our children and vulnerable people from dying. I totally support the ban to prevent measles from spreading even faster.John Ale, 50, Vaitele FouI support the ban on children from attending church service because this will prevent measles from getting spread to other children, and getting the other children infected. We all want to go to church, but going to church service with children who have measles – they will only spread it and this will affect other children, and the disease will spread.Fotulafai Reupena, 61, Vaitele FouI take off my hat to the government for the decision to ban children from attending church services and public areas due to the measles outbreak. We should protect them from the virus. I read media reports of many children losing their lives from measles, if this fatalities continue there could be no more young generation for Samoa. We have to protect our own children, and the children are the future of our country. Faititili Tipasa, 40, AfegaI totally support the ban on children from church because I know that the children are the ones most affected by the measles. I prefer children not attend any church service as they can be easily affected if they still go and it will lead to more infections. Ensuring the children stay home will prevent measles from spreading, and protect other children infection. 

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Letter to Editor

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China and developments at Mulifanua

Kevin Hart’s letter of 03 September complained about the Chinese being a likely buyer of Government’s shareholding in the Sheraton Samoa Resort at Mulifanua. Which raises the question; what is wrong with Chinese investors getting involved in tourism development in Samoa anyway especially when there isn’t much interest from elsewhere? Virtually every other country in the Pacific and the world including the US and Australia, China’s foremost critics have been enjoying the benefits of Chinese trade, investment, and tourism. So why not Samoa?Whether people like it or not, China will be a major player in the region, and it will only get worse with time for those who wish it otherwise. And in any case, one can’t do business with China as China’s critics do, and then seek to deny the Pacific Islands the same privilege by engaging in fearmongering about China’s intentions.  Samoa’s deputy prime minister called this bahaviour recently, patronizing and offensive. It is also dishonest. One would have thought that with colonialism still fresh in people’s minds, China’s detractors might have tried some more subtle way to make their case about China being a threat to Island nations. After all, these are nations that have only recently won back their own sovereignty from countries that are accusing China, a victim of colonialism itself, of malevolent intent in the Pacific.  Samoa’s prime minister made the point at the Pacific Island Forum that China is not an enemy of Samoa, which adheres to a “friend to all and enemy to none” approach to old and new comers alike to the region. The Pacific islands have legitimate economic needs and environmental interests that the former colonial powers in the Pacific have been unable to meet or in some cases totally ignored. Over the years, the Pacific Island nations have even been blamed for supposedly lagging in economic growth behind other parts of the world that receive similar levels of aid. But more recent work on the subject has confirmed what the Pacific Islands have known all along. And that is when you are small, highly fragmented and horribly isolated, your costs of attempting any form of economic activity are always going to be high no matter what you do.  China’s willingness and ability to help bridge this aid gap is welcomed therefore. It also helps that China has a different approach in its relations with the tiny and insignificant Pacific Island states and peoples. And it happens it’s an approach that the Pacific peoples themselves understand all too well and appreciate. Its an approach that recognizes the inherent dignity of peoples irrespective of colour, money and level of development. The result is that in spite of the fear mongering about China’s supposedly hidden agenda even in the face of evidence to the contrary, the Pacific Islands have seen no reason to believe this crude and offensive propaganda.  There appears to have been a notable increase lately in the number of visits by navy vessels and personnel from the US and Australia doing the usual public relations soft sell with various groups including school children. The visit on board these war machines and the helicopter rides for the children will have been the thrill of a lifetime for many. One suspects that we will be seeing more of these as the West sets out to contain the rise of Chinese influence in the region. The visits bring back to mind the colonial days of gun boat diplomacy in the Pacific when control of native populations was exercised mainly through the firepower of visiting warships when turned on native communities that failed to toe the line   Samoa’s prime minister is reported to have said recently in relation to the stepped-up competition that Samoa’s main interest and focus of diplomacy is to raise standards of living and provide for its people’s needs. In the circumstances, public relations and making friends with young people will only go so far in winning influence especially in the face of China’s hard cash. Airy catch phrases such as Step Up, (Australia), Pacific Uplift, (UK), something about Family? (US), can easily backfire. A meeting between Chinese leaders and Pacific Island leaders being hosted by Samoa in October this year should be quite an event especially at this time. It will most likely see among other things the unveiling of some new aid and trade initiative by China.   And as for Chinese interests possibly helping to bring more air services to Samoa, that too would be a welcome relief from the monopolistic practices of Air New Zealand, Virgin Airways and Fiji Airways, the three carriers that operate services in Samoa today. After being badly burnt in yet another one-sided partnership with an Australian carrier, the Samoan government did the right thing for Samoa in starting up Samoa Airways in spite of the risks and poor timing. When Polynesian Airlines started international services to New Zealand in the late 1970s, it did so mainly on the strength of Samoa’s own ethnic traffic between the two countries. The airline did well even then, until gross mismanagement grounded it with heavy losses. In spite of its inauspicious beginnings, Samoa Airways if properly managed and run, (by professionals preferably), has every chance of being the catalyst for Samoa to have the airline services it so badly needs. But it is helpful as government embarks on this to be reminded that we have been down this very road before. The lessons of history are there and must be learnt and heeded, if their repetition is to be avoided. Incidentally, as for a possible flooding of the To-Sua with tourists from China if direct charter flights were to start between China and Samoa, I have a suggestion. Make the climb down to the water even more challenging than it is now. That should encourage only the young and the brave to take the plunge. Afamasaga F ToleafoaLetava

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