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F.B.I. in Samoa, online threats and the Govt’s crusade to find O le Palemia

Last week, Samoa hosted three agents from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.). The presence of Ryan Pardee, Patrick Geahan, and Dr. Christopher Hecker in Apia naturally aroused a lot of interest from curious members of the community.The obvious questions were what was the F.B.I. doing in Samoa and who were they here to investigate and arrest?It is understandable. After all that’s what these Hollywood movies have been teaching us about the F.B.I. all these years.But as we found out, it wasn’t like that all. The Government through the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, and another entrepreneur, Mose Mose, had called upon the F.B.I. to conduct a training to improve the capacity of local officials to tackle cybercrime.Excellent. Given the number of problems associated with online fraud, social media abuse, financial transactions and the Government’s ongoing search for the identity – or identities - of the bloggers behind the Ole Palemia page, the training couldn’t have been held at a better time.  “We have only seen F.B.I. on television, but to have F.B.I. here in Samoa, we are excited – not only to have you among us but for the future prospects,” Minister Afamasaga said.“Although we are a small country we are equally vulnerable in terms of cyber-attacks. We need to be protected, hence this workshop.”Now slow down a bit here.What and from whom do we need to be protected?For all we know, in this paradise we call home, words like crypto-currencies, fake news and online fraud have been thrown around a lot lately. Other terms like identity theft, money laundering and so forth have also been making the rounds.And then there is Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his administration’s never ending crusade to unmask the identity – or identities - of O.L.P who has been giving the Government a lot of headaches.Come to think of it, maybe the Government could have also asked the F.B.I. agents to assist them with their search.After all, they have been trying for years, only to come up empty handed.Which is why we found the latest development from the Minister of Communications and Information Technology interesting.Asked about the progress of the Government’s O.L.P. investigation, Minister Afamasaga dropped a bombshell.“I think all the bloggers behind O.L.P. is known but you have to consider peace and harmony of this country,” he said.“A lot of bad things are said about people on the platform like O.L.P. and others and its causing unrest and causing violence. If we end up publicising these names, who knows someone might get killed?”The Minister insisted that O.L.P. appears to be a group of people, not just an individual.But he wouldn’t give any names, which is quite disappointing.The fact is a number of allegations raised by O.L.P. have hurt so many people because they are malicious and false. These people have a right to know.Besides, there have also been cases where the Government through the Police has wrongfully accused innocent members of the community over the blog. This newspaper was also subjected to a Police search because of allegations raised by O.L.P.We therefore find it interesting that the Government has now turned around and waved the peace card instead. What forced the change of mind?“We don’t want to waste our energy on things like that,” Minister Afamasaga said. “We want to focus on developments and serve the people we are here to serve. We don’t want to waste our time on negative things…focus on what is positive and moving forward on what is good for our country.”Well he’s got a point.But let me remind the Minister and the Government here and now that several years ago, O.L.P. was basically a non-identity until they decided to make a monster out of him/her/them.They cannot just suddenly change their tune and expect people to believe and accept it. The truth is if the Government knows, as the Minister said, they are duty bound to tell the public and do what is necessary to hold this blog to account.But then don’t hold your breath. We might need several more visits from the F.B.I. including help from Interpol, C.I.A and the even spies from Russia and China for this to happen.What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!Have a safe Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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Street Talk

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Is the water rate increase justified and affordable for families?

Well for me, I am always very supportive of whatever practices that any Ministries would do as long as they're for a better reason. If the water is expensive or cheap, the most important thing is that we can access the water and there is nothing more important than that. Those who are complaining should reconsider their views on the issue because I will keep saying this. I thank God for the fresh water we can access each day so if the Government will increase the rate of water bill then I know it's for a good cause.I guess for this one I think the Samoa Water Authority (S.W.A) is increasing the water rate to protect against the misuse of water by those who could not care more about the importance of water in our lives. A lot of people are misusing water as if it's for free so I hope this increase will stop them from this misfortune. Second, although I want people to stop misusing the water, I also feel sorry for those families who have very little income in their pockets so I hope God gives the Government and SWA a better solution to make it fair for everyone.I was shocked the moment I heard about the increase in the water rate. To be honest, 90 per cent of the families in Samoa, who mostly live in the rural areas, have very little money to pay for water bill and that also includes my family. So that means having to increase the water rate will cause more struggle for families who are striving day and night to find money to pay their water bills. Life is getting more and more expensive so I hope the Government would have a little consideration of the struggles we're facing these days.Personally I think the increase would be a better option for those, who are using water to manage the usage of water because as for us, we do not have water but we feel that majority are just not valuing the essence of water in our lives. We know how important water is because we do not have full access to the water. We supply our water from our neighbors but then again, I fully support the increase of water rate so people can start learning how to use water wisely and think of us, the poor families who do not have access to the water.To compare from the current water rate to however high they will increase it to, I think it's appropriate to increase the water rate so it can also help out the water managers (S.W.A) to equally supply the water throughout the country. But, I also recommend that they consider the situation of the people. Some people does not have much money to pay for the water bills, even with the current water rate. So I suggest they increase it only in a way that can teach the careless people of the unwise usage of water, but not so high in a way that it can cause more problems to the families who are trying to earn. That is my only concern.For me, I think it's both advantages and disadvantages when I think about it. First, it's a very good option or way to manage the usage of water wisely by some other people. Some people are always careless with the usage of water. Sometimes I will always check my water bill and it's either normal or shockingly speeds up to an unexpected bill and it's because the people are careless in using water. Second, it's not fair for us paying the water, when we think about those who are not paying water. They do not care about how much water they use because they're not even paying a single cent for it. That's my only concern for the water rate increase.

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Letter to Editor

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U.S. Ambassador tries but no one is fooled

The photo in Wednesday’s Samoa Observer of the American Ambassador and his good lady with Imam Laulu Mohammed Stanley is very touching. Such fake empathy and compassion! If Ambassador Brown is truly sympathetic about what happened to the Muslim community in Christchurch, why not do something real like telling his boss in the White House and his former employers at Fox News to stop demonizing the Muslims with lies and fake news? And while you’re at it by the way, do the same with the evangelical so-called Christians of America.Because when you have such power over how people think and behave, you can’t go on preaching hate against other peoples and then not expect your followers and admirers somewhere to act on it. Words have consequences, the more so when they come from leaders. And what good is wearing a hijab in Samoa other than to take people here for fools, and to copycat the incomparable Ms. Ardern? The big difference is that Ms. Ardern wore the signature Muslim women dress with panache, compassion and most importantly sincerity. The whole world saw that in her, and with the exception of you know where, applauded. She also backed it up immediately afterwards with concrete action.  So please don’t add insult to injury and desecrate the hijab.  Your current employer in the White House and former employer at Fake News continue to empower killers like what’s his name in the Christchurch massacre. Wearing the hijab at this time is nothing but hypocrisy of the highest order and fools no one here. E le valea uma ValeGasa Lefa T. Vailima

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