Games Chairman downplays last minute decision by C.C.C.S. to withdraw schools

The Chairman of the Pacific Games Organising Committee, Loau Solamalemalo Sio, has downplayed the decision by the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.), to withdraw three church schools from taking part in the opening and closing ceremonies, of the Pacific Games.

Five days out from the opening ceremony scheduled at Apia Park on Sunday night, Loau, who is also the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, told the Samoa Observer they have already moved to plan B to accommodate the last minute withdrawal of some 500 dancers.

That plan involves bringing in youth groups from Vaiala, Moata’a, Matautu and other villages, to replace students from Maluafou College, Papauta Girls College and Leulumoega College.

The students have been stopped from taking part in the ceremonies because both are held on Sundays.

The decision was confirmed by the General Secretary of the C.C.C.S, Reverend Vavatau Taufao, who said they have only recently found out that the opening and closing ceremonies were on Sundays. 

He said the Church stands by their belief that Sunday is to be respected.

Asked if they were not aware about the opening and closing ceremonies being held on Sunday from the beginning, Rev. Vavatau said the management of the Games never told them.

But Minister Loau disputed this, saying the last minute decision is disappointing. 

He insisted that the schools knew very well about the details from the start when they agreed to take part. He said M.E.S.C. could not force anybody to take part without understanding the details - especially the dates of the performances.

“I think we’re picking up the real reason why they did what they have done,” Loau said. “But it doesn’t matter because Samoa is a free country and there is always a plan B for these things.”

Looking at plan B, Loau is confident they can pull it off.

“These other youth groups as well as other schools have always wanted to participate in the Pacific Games opening and now we’ve given them the chance that was given to the C.C.C.S schools,” said the Minister.

“If it’s about their church policies, then I don’t know what’s so different from those dances they do in church but anyway, it doesn’t matter.”

Contacted for a comment, Principal of Maluafou College, Lasi Tavae, said the students were disappointed after months of rehearsals.

“We were really looking forward to the Pacific Games,” Mrs. Tavae said.

“All the students were very proud and to us, we felt like we were the best with our preparations but unfortunately, we were caught by surprise with he sad news.

“We do not blame the church nor the government but we’ll take it as a wake-up call for Samoa as we also agree that Sunday should be respected, based on our foundation that Samoa is founded on God.”

At Maluafou College yesterday, the Principal relayed the message to the students during a special assembly.

Mrs. Tavae said the students started practices in April and from then on, the staff and students have had to sacrifice three out of six study periods for their practices - including schools breaks.

“We arranged for the students to practice from the morning in their first three periods until break and study for the last three periods of the day and that was them every day from April to last week including their schools breaks,” she added.

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