P.M. says aircraft lease “secret”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has changed his tune about confirming the cost Samoa Airways is paying to lease the aircraft form Icelandic Air.

After he asked the Samoa Observer to direct queries to the Chief Executive Officer of Samoa Airways, Seiuli Alvin Tuala, yesterday he said it is a “secret.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa made the comment during an interview with the Samoa Observer where he was again pressed about the cost of the lease.

“These are commercial secrets, it cannot be revealed,” he said. 

The Samoa Observer learned from inside sources that the airline is paying up to “US$500,000” (T$1.25million) a fortnight to lease the aircraft.

Tuilaepa refused to discuss any of the information.

 “These things are commercial contracts, and if you inquire with any airline companies, they will never allow that to be known,” he said. 

At that point, the Samoa Observer put it to the Prime Minister that Samoa Airways is government-owned and that members of the public deserve to know.

But he disagreed.

 “These are commercial secrets, it cannot be revealed,” he responded. 

“It cannot be publically announced, these are commercial based secrets.”  

Samoa Observer pressed that this is a Government-owned airline; Tuilaepa again intervened and said “when the accounts are available that’s the time you will know.” 

He was asked to point out when that will happen and Tuilaepa said “the end of every year.” 

Last month, Tuilaepa referred questions to the Management of the Airline. 

At the time, he said: “To get the exact amount down to the cents, direct your questions to the C.E.O. of Samoa Airways.

“That shouldn’t be hard to do.”

The Prime Minister then asked as to why the Samoa Observer was interested in the cost of the lease.

“Your questions appear to be looking for trouble,” he said. 

“However if you ask, then do a follow up question, what is the usual amount of such leases, that is how you do it. But don’t just ask about our lease.”

Questions sent to the Management of the Airline have not been responded to all. 

In October, 2017, Cabinet ordered all government Ministries and corporations to use Samoa Airways for any flights to New Zealand and Australia funded by the government. 

The Cabinet order was signed by the C.E.O. of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo. 

The Cabinet paper also strictly instructs government officials to persuade sponsors and funders of other trips to book flights from and back to Samoa with Samoa Airways.

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