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Is now not time for the Government to declare a state of emergency?

This much cannot be denied. Not many people – if anyone at all – would not have been affected one way or another by the story titled “Lauli’i family buries two infants”. It was published on the front page of the Sunday Samoan.The story of the parents having to bury two of their children on the same day is heart-wrenching. You don’t need to be related, or know any of the people involved in this story, to feel so dispirited by it.The truth is that the story of Paulo and Fa’aoso Tuivale and their children is a tragedy in every meaning of the word. To lose one child is difficult enough.But words cannot begin to describe what it is like to have two children die in the space of five days, and then as parents fronting up to have to bury them both on the same day.Ladies and gentlemen, this must be the most excruciatingly painful experience any parent could be subjected to. And yet that is precisely what the Tuivales of Lauli’i have been through.When reporter, Adel Fruean, from this newspaper visited the family on Saturday for an interview, Paulo was too distraught to speak to the media. That’s understandable. We don’t want to pretend to know what he and his wife must be going through. The truth is we don’t and unless anyone has lost two children under similar circumstances, no one else will.What we do know is that two days before the second death, Paulo did find the courage to speak after his first child, Itila Tuivale, died. During an interview with the Samoa Observer, he demanded answers from the Ministry of Health.He also said his son's death came after two other family members became ill with measles. “My wife and three kids including Itila were taken to be checked for measles but the doctor said that only my wife and one of my children [twin girl] has measles,” he said.Itila was not diagnosed with measles, but Paulo was not convinced. “I was very worried because my child had a fever which was one of the symptoms but of course I trusted the doctor’s advice and took Itila home," he said. “My wife and children were confined at the hospital. But everything changed when my son started showing signs of a rash on Monday. “We took him  (back) to the hospital on Monday around 5pm but he was later pronounced dead around 8pm on the same night. The sad part was that no doctor came up to us and told us the cause of death for our child.”He then told of the anguish and pain of losing his boy.“My wife would not let go of his body [Itila] on that night and I tried my best to be strong but it was useless, I never expected something like this to happen,” he said. “No parent would want to lose a child, especially at such a young age. I sometimes wonder what he would be like in the future.”When the Samoa Observer spoke with Paulo on Wednesday last week, he said they were planning to bury Itila on Friday. In a tragic twist of events, his daughter, Tamara, died on that Friday so that by Saturday, the family had to say goodbye to both children.Today, the Ministry of Health is yet to respond to questions from this newspaper about the deaths of the Tuivales. Whether they plan to address this or not, we don’t know, but the absence of a response so far is symptomatic of the handling of this measles epidemic from the start – in as far as media queries go.Folks, we acknowledge that the Ministry of Health has a crisis on their hands, and maybe responding to media queries is not necessarily on the top of their list. We also acknowledge with gratitude the work that is being done by health officers all across the nation as part of the national response.But the Director of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, and his team have got to do better in terms of communicating their messages to the public. This is an epidemic that is threatening the health of an entire nation. It is a crisis already for crying out loud.You would think that communicating critical messages to the public on a daily basis, or even on hourly basis, would be part of the strategy to combat this contagious disease? From what we are seeing, this is clearly not the case. The last official update was released on Thursday last week. And even on that update, it quoted figures from Monday 4 November 2019.Today is Tuesday 12 November 2019. It means that for a whole week, members of the public are in the dark on the latest figures about a crisis, that everyone is concerned about. This is not good enough.The deaths of the infants at Lauli’i are suspected measles cases. And so are other cases – the majority of them innocent children.We are of the view that this Government should not treat this matter as business as usual. A crisis deserves a crisis-like response.One life lost is one too many. This country has lost more than one life. That is a fact. How many more lives need to be lost for this Government to declare a state of emergency?Today, we strongly believe it is time for the Government to elevate its response.Exams can wait, whatever else can wait. If measles is further spread by public gatherings as they say, then do whatever is necessary to ensure there are no public gatherings anymore. That means close schools now, postpone exams until another time, cancel church gatherings and ban all public events.We are aware that some will say this is extreme and we are creating panic amongst members of the public. But ask the Tuivales at Lauli’i what they think. And if you even begin to understand their pain, then we must not let the deaths of Itila and Tamara be in vain. The pain that their parents are going through is something we don’t want to wish on anyone.Do you think it’s time for the Government to declare a state of emergency?Write and share your thoughts. Stay safe Samoa, God bless!    

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Street Talk

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Newborns being abandoned: How do we stop it?

Poutoa Polutele , 41, TufuleleThe solution is within families. The parents should have a connection with their children and they should also teach their child what to do. For the parents, if the girl gets pregnant they should not beat the girl. They should understand and talk with her, because the girl thinks that her parents might beat her and then she makes the wrong decision. It goes back to good relations.Siloi Reopoamo, 53, Saleia Savai’iI think it's very important that parents communicate with their children everyday. One of the biggest issues today is cellphones because too many children spend time on it.  For my family I talk to my kids every time and day, ever since my kids were young. That's my solution.Lina Leiataua, 64, Fa’atoiaI think the whole country should be involved in a programme to encourage girls to speak out when these things happen. We know we cannot stop so we have to be accomodating when it happens. There are also a lot of parents who cannot have children and I think there should be a programme where these children could be adopted. It's just an idea.Api Tuilo’a, 34, Safotu Savai’iOur country needs to repent and ask God for help. I cannot see any other solution unless God is involved. If girls and boys fear God, they wouldn't do what God wouldn't want them to do - and that includes abandoning babies born outside of marriage. We need to be a prayerful nation. Vaisuigi Malio, 52, Vavaai LotofagaThe issue is not new to Samoa. My solution involves families, the relationship between parents and daughter. The kids also need to understand where the parents stand on issues and why they don't want them to get pregnant. But if they do get pregnant, then the parents need to be patient and still work with their children. That's how we solve this.Le’ale’a  Mataia, 39, FalefaGirls who don't have a relationship with their parents would do this. I think that's the first part of the problem. I also think mothers need to read their daughters body language and find out what is going on. Surely there must be signs so they should not be passive. I think we need to tackle this issue as a community rather than individuals. 

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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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