That Award should have been mine’s

Dear Editor,

Mata’afa Keni Lesa you are not a journalist. This piece is in reference to the title in your newspaper: THIS IS SAMOA’S AWARD.

To be truthful, what follow this title does not address the meaning of it.  You tell me in what way Samoa deserve this award? When I saw the title I thought it was because  Samoa is the incest capital of the world, or that its rugby  team does not win when it is needed. Lo and behold it was about just one man; not the whole country!

For those not familiar with the term food security (in Samoa), what it means, and what it entitles to be called a country with safe food; it makes them feel proud of Samoa wining something. Doesn’t it? But the naked truth is- albeit it was not told. It is because Samoa, in plain words has the dirtiest and very unsafe  food in the whole wide world. Not just lately, but way back as far as we can remember. Neither the Germans nor the New Zealanders cared what the Samoans were eating on a daily basis.  That is something that Samoans as proud people  as they are, should be tagged with that designation: A country that has the un –safest food to feed its citizens. This worthless distinction is shared by Kenya, Africa in the person of  journalist Zeynab Wandati’s Food Friday TV program.

I say this with the authority it gives me by reporting (the only one) on the food safety in Samoa since 2007 (and all my 34 articles published in your newspaper for everybody to read and meditate about them.) 

In fact, with my first article on 03.16.’07: “Food expert says: Unhygienic conditions widespread in Samoa.” The sad truth was that those in charge of keeping the food clean were those who attacked me for telling the truth and shaming them for not doing their job-and still do not.

In reading the newspaper on 03.21.07: ACEO Pelenatete Stowers said;” I was irresponsible  and unfounded and I lacked evidence. The rest: the CEO Palanitina Toelupe, the General Mgr of N.H.S. Dr. S.Dean and Lemalu Dr. Limbo were conveniently  “busy” to confront me and my article.

Nothing has been done ever since and the award given to the editor of the newspaper (even though the Award description says to a journalist) proves that I was right and will be until something is done to improve the security of our food in Samoa.

If indeed Samoa won the Award, those USD10,000 could have done nicely to provide a good sorely need of water tanks to our poor fellows up at the plantations. Wouldn’t you think?

4 years back the unsafe condition is still the same. Why 4 years? because the condition given by F.A.O. to give an award have to be that bad for the 4 previous years. And Samoa was highly qualified for it. In fact, 10 years back.

Now here is the hardest part to swallow.

Sorry about that, but the truth must be told; unless proved that I am wrong, I usually am!

If you type in your computer F.A.O. Awards and click on A.H. Boerma Award it reads:

A.H. Boerma Award for “JOURNALISTS  (my capitals) who have successfully steered public attention toward food security topics… blah, blah. (It does not say to EDITORS)

Further it reads referring to Mataafa “ The award recognizes his work to address food security…his strong ability as an Editor to communicate complicated issues through an ACCESSIBLE WRITING STYLE” whose writing style may I ask?  His or mine? As far as I know he has not written one article, like mine, about food security in Samoa, less 34 articles in 10 years.

By the way the Award consist of: an inscribed medal, a scroll describing the winner’s achievement and a cash prize 0f USD 10,000. None of these was reported in the newspaper. All the country wants to know what they won, they sure can use the USD 10,000 as explained above.

First and foremost I want to make absolutely clear, to everybody concerned with this topic, that I was and I am the only one who writes about the food insecurity in Samoa. If anybody else does, I would like to see his/her article(s)..

Here is also another part hard to swallow.

How did it happen that F.A.O. got hold of my articles about food safety in Samoa, specially in the las 4 years? A little bit of history here: In 2006, when Mr. Dirk Schulz left the F.A.O. Sub Regional Office in Apia, after 20 years here, he was replaced by Ms. Ann Hayman, from Australia. And for two years.

Being as she is a food technologist like myself, I wanted for her, and  as a token of welcome, to present her with my memory stick containing my 34 articles dealing exclusively with food safety in Samoa up to that date, 2006.

To clarify this Mataafa says in his speech, while receiving the award. His words: “I want to thank the F.A.O. Office in Samoa for the secret nomination. You sure did an excellent job in keeping it a secret”

Sure, he is quite right in saying that. Because when nomination were asked worldwide from all the F.A.O. offices Ann was ready to nominate Samoa as an unsafe food country. I have asked Ann to clarify this sticky point. No answer, so far. Why? because to stick to the definition who is qualified to receive it, me as a journalist, who wrote all the articles my name was mysteriously vanished up in the air. By whom? I would like to know.But I’ll find out. Ann could have said in nominating Samoa; “Here are the articles in the last 4 years written (and published by the Samoa Observer’ editor Mataafa Lesa Keni)  by Orlando Huaman, a retired American food technologist residing in Samoa.”

But sad to say, neither Ann nor Dr. Graziano da Silva (F.A.O. General Director) have answered my question as how F.A.O. got hold of my articles.

Nothing was done in that regard. With the question mark in my mind or anybody else who is concerned about the safety of our food in Samoa: Who wrote the articles, was the editor himself – as is implied in: “an accessible writing style”. Whose writing style mine or Mataafa’s?

Mataafa in his acceptance speech proclaim his thanks to: God Almighty, his Samoan team, his parents, of course; his church, and everybody else BUT ME, who wrote all the articles. 

Why I was left out?  And, I am a collaborator for the  newspaper for the last 10 years. Of course that didn’t count when thanking everybody. Doesn’t it Mata’afa? Was it temporary amnesia, ignorance or selective forgetfulness, or all of the above.? Your  bible says: Give to Caesar what belong to him and  to God what belong to him. 

 If I (Orlando Huaman) did not write anything about food safety in Samoa, he would not have been in F.A.O.’s Rome office to receive the A.H. Boerma Award. Is that true Mr. Mataafa Keny Lesa.? Of course it is! Well, acknowledge it. In so doing I will feel vindicated.

As an afterthought to the above, being myself always mindful of unsafe food. Would somebody rationalize for me-especially those at the M.O.H. who suppose to know about food safety, but don’t. Why do I say that? Because if they did the editor of the Samoa Observer would never had been awarded the A.H.Boerma prize. For what? For the country having the unsecured  food in the world, shared by Kenya, in the person of Zeynab Wandati, a journalist (not a editor, mind you) with her Food Friday TV program.

Here is the dilemma. Science tells us that COOKED FOOD IS PERISHABE. Period. 

Why then the Samoan people eat cooked food at room temperature, 2 hours after they are supposed to be eaten? Tradition or what? Also how can you rationally  justify “washing” your hand with a bowl of plain water and a rag AFTER a big meal at a village meeting? Obviously, they ate with their hands dirty. Would the MOH’s Ministry do the same if invited there? Of course, he would. By not doing it would be against  the village’s protocol. The question is: Would he correct it?. i.e. wash your hands BEFORE eating.

The following cooked foods are supposed to be sold under refrigeration:

Cooked taro, cooked banana, cooked breadfruit, keke pu’ua, German buns, roti, boiled eggs, sandwiches that contain cooked meat,  even palusami. Why I include palusami? Because one time I was poisoned by eating palusami brought to me by my wife from her church. E.coli? of course. You know why? all those people that prepare food, like above mentioned, do not know how to wash their hands. Do they know about the 20 seconds rule?  Water temperature? I doubt it. And that include all the high class restaurants and fast food outlets, bakeries and all. Luckily the infamous Food Court is gone.

 Also, this what the M.A.F. does not understand regardless of my saying: that fish at the Savalalo fish market are supposed to be sold covered with crushed ice or brine water. Just like in any developed country. Would M.A.F. make a move and change it?

No wonder the  main hospital looks like the town people doing their shopping before Mother’s Day celebration or White Sunday. My wife and I after almost 4 hours wait were told that her scan of head and neck was not needed according to  a second opinion by her principal doctor; and  my 110 tala gone forever..

Those who are not sure that the country is going to pot, better think again and do something about it. Due to: Addiction to power (you know by whom), forgery (you know by whom), corruption, incest, mismanagement, white elephants, ineffective churches, unemployment at galore. Etc., etc. Hard to move forward, if you ask me.

Orlando Huaman



EDITOR’S NOTE: Orlando Huaman, of Malololelei’s letter, has been published verbatim. God bless you, Orlando!

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