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Former tourism boss farewells staff

Former Samoa Tourism Authority C.E.O. Papalii Sonja Hunter has bid farewell to her staff, and expressed confidence in her successor Faamatuaina Lenatai Suifua.

Speaking to staff at the S.T.A.-owned Fale Friday evening, she thanked the Cabinet and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi for continuing to support the tourism industry in Samoa, which she said has led to positive feedback from satisfied tourists. 

“This is why I thank God for this opportunity given for me and for some of us. This is the time for us to think of what business or what you want to do to serve Samoa. This is the right time to do so.

“You should be all rejoicing that I’m leaving because I’m the hardest person in Samoa Tourism Authority and the industry and also in response to some of the board members demands," she said.

On her successor Faamatuaina, she said he knew what needed to be done at the S.T.A. and his appointment was right. 

“Thank you Director General for choosing my dear elder son Faamatuainu. Why? Because he was the one looking after the products and serving the section of promoting to our people, the things that can be done,” she said.

The former STA chief executive will join the National Council of Churches (N.C.C.) and used the occasion on the night to thank the council's chairman, Leaupepe Kasiano Leaupepe. 

She said her appointment to the N.C.C. was what she was referring to when she said "I am stepping up" after her exit from the tourism industry's peak body.

“That is exactly what I meant when I said I am stepping up because whatever is in this world is not important. 

"Everything we do in this earth stays in this world. But if we make use of ourselves and spread the word of God that is most important part to be placed in between the eyes of our staff,” she said.

The announcement of her exit from the S.T.A. last month and her "stepping up" comment triggered a lot of criticism on social media, but she said she did not care about the public reaction.

“I am virally badmouthed on social media as you all know but I do not even care about it. Why do I not care? I don’t care because as long as God has the praises and tourists appreciate our service, I get the blessing.

“As the Minister once told me, why should I care about it? If I’m being blamed, then it means God is giving me blessings because all these are unapproved rumors,” she added. 

Besides her job with the N.C.C., her exit from the tourism industry will also give her more time to focus on her other role as a board member of local television station TV1. 

She indicated that she previously did not interfere in the television station's operations due to conflict of interest, but that will now change because as board member she will "check" whatever is submitted to the media organisation. 

“As you all know, I am a member of the TV1 board. Back then, I never interfere to be involved in anything that had to do with TV1 because I fear conflict of interest so I just leave the workers to do their own jobs and consult with whoever.

“But now I am telling you, I will be involved in the board more often now so please do not forget that. And whatever that will be submitted, I will check them because I have a good friendship with the owner and so we can keep a good reputation," she added. 

The former S.T.A. C.E.O. was later presented with gifts as part of her farewell. .

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