Report shocks diplomat, P.M. slams Australian journalist
An Australian newspaper article that reported plans by the Chinese government to fund the building of a wharf in Savai’i has shocked the Chinese Ambassador, and attracted a strong rebuttal from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi.
The Australian newspaper on Monday reported that China is negotiating with the Samoa Government to fund the redevelopment of Asau wharf on Savai’i, a project which the newspaper claims will have major economic and strategic implications for Australia and the United States in the Pacific Islands.
China’s Ambassador to Samoa, Wang Xuefeng, was shocked when approached by the Samoa Observer to comment, and said he was not aware of any negotiations between the two Governments.
“I have to check this news and I will answer you,” he said, before pulling the printed copy of the article out of the hands of the reporter, and pushed it into his pocket.
“I don’t know and I am not aware. I haven’t heard of this and I am not aware of the whole thing. I will read the news first.”
This newspaper has not heard from the Ambassador after that exchange, which took place on Wednesday, after the diplomat officiated at the handing over of medical aid valued at $500,000 to Samoa’s Ministry of Health.
The Prime Minister also rubbished the article by The Australian newspaper, saying his Government was only in discussions with China on the Vaiusu wharf.
“The project that we have in discussions with China is the Vaiusu port. I do not know where the report came from,” he said, when asked by this newspaper, during his weekly media broadcast programme on Thursday.
“Look. We are very bright people. We will never do that thing of building a thing we can’t pay for. Don’t underestimate us. You should tell off those journalists. As I said, I like that journalist for his stupidity, in one instance is helping us in another. His stupidity is helping us to expose to whichever rich Arabian somewhere, that there is a port that needs to be built that will be excellent for fishing!”
But the strong rebuttal from both the Ambassador and Tuilaepa on Chinese government involvement clashes with statements made by the Asau Member of Parliament, and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu Mu’a in April this year—which points to funding from Beijing.
“The Prime minister announced that funding through the Chinese government has been secured to deepen and widen the channel in the Asau Harbour,” Lopao’o said, and indicated that the port redevelopment project will take two years to complete.