Of drunken Associate Ministers, former Speaker and Samoa Airways

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 04 July 2018, 12:00AM

Perhaps the former Speaker of Parliament La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt should come clean and tell us exactly whom he was referring to in Parliament last week.

We are talking about the claim he made that some Associate Ministers “get drunk and badmouth Samoa Airways.” It’s a very serious allegation, especially given the fact there are 13 Associate Ministers, which means anyone of them could be the target.

So it’s important for Laauli who made the allegation to tell us who the Associate Minister is. After all, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his administration have spent a lot of time and the public’s monies to get Samoa Airways off the ground. If it’s true that an Associate Minister is leading the crusade in talking negatively about the airline, it means Tuilaepa’s boat is leaking from within. Which is not a good look at all.

Looking in from the outside, since November last year, the airline appears to be doing okay – in as far as the consistency of flights to and from New Zealand and Australia goes. Which is a great thing. 

Despite earlier concerns about its profitability and controlling operational costs, the Government through Prime Minister Tuilaepa, has repeatedly assuaged public fears about the future of the airline. Questioned about monthly losses, Tuilaepa said these claims couldn’t be accurate since the Government cannot get a sense for profitability or losses until the financial year ends. Which is fair enough, let’s just wait and see. 

The truth is simple enough. As proud Samoans, it’s wonderful to see Samoa’s name on our own national airline when you board a flight at those big airports – whether it be Auckland or Sydney. There is something inside you that just rises up with pride seeing that plane on the tarmac.

But we are also realistic enough to know that the airline industry is a tough one financially. It’s a money-draining project and unless someone has got this thing worked out, it will become a bottomless pit in terms of losses.

We truly hope that will not be the case here.

Which is why it is important for our people and friends of Samoa to support the airline. The foreigners will come as passengers but in the meantime, the Government leaders and all leaders of Samoa must be seen to be doing their part to promote Samoa Airways.

Which brings us back to the allegation raised by La’aulialemalietoa in Parliament.  

 “My only disappointment is that there are some Associate Ministers who are badmouthing the airline,” he said. 

“There are Associate Ministers who get drunk and talk negatively about the airline, saying it’s not going to work. That’s where the leak is. My advice to these people is to stop it.”

La’auli would not say whom he was referring to. But the claim was immediately disputed and the inevitable happened with the Associate Ministers demanding to know the person. The Associate Minister of the Ministry of Prime Minister, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga, for instance immediately took the floor.

 “I remember I was on a trip two months ago with Laauli on Samoa Airways, I envied him because he sat at business class, but I sat at the back,” Peseta said. 

“So I don’t understand if it is me whom he is referring to.”

“Also I don’t know about my fellow associate Ministers if they drink alcohol …. so it would be better for him to tell us who the Associate Minister is because there are many of us.”

The Associate Minister of Works and Member of Parliament for Sagaga le Usoga, Seiuli Ueligitone and Aiga i le Tai’s Member of Parliament agreed.

But when La’auli returned to the floor, he wouldn’t budge.

 “You should be observant and listen to my choice of words,” he said. “I said there are some Associate Minsters. The person knows himself. I don’t have to say it. He knows it.”

At that point, Prime Minister Tuilaepa joined the fun.

“I honestly thought my Associate Minister would not take the floor,” he said referring to Peseta, “because it could easily be interpreted as these guys dragging their fight in here, because they are still fighting.”

Tuilaepa was referring to a longstanding Court battle between La’auli and Peseta over a business venture that has since turned sour. 

“But maybe La’auli is right,” Tuilaepa continued. Turning his attention to the former Speaker, Tuilaepa said: “La’auli come and tell me who it is.”

So stay tuned! These things have a funny way of revealing themselves.

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 04 July 2018, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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