Minister stands by $200,000 weightlifting sponsorship
The Samoa Water Authority’s (S.W.A.) $200,000 sponsorship for the Samoa Weightlifting Federation is for a great cause.
So says Minister for Samoa Water Authority, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, who strongly defended the one year contract sponsorship signed between S.W.A. and S.W.F.
“That initiative was approved by the Board of Directors [for S.W.A] and it is within their authority under the law. It is legal,” Papali'i said.
“It is for a good cause and as it is part of the S.W.A.’s community service."
But not everyone agrees. Critics of the decision argue that the amount donated to the weightlifters could fund about two thousand 1,000 litre water tanks for people in Samoa who have no access to water.
They say S.W.A. should focus on providing water to the rest of Samoa before they invest in sports.
The Minister said the Authority is already doing that.
“The government is assisting families who are in a isolated area by providing water tanks," Papali'i said.
"Some families have access to water at their home in the village but not on their farms. And they should apply for water tanks through the Red Cross and relevant government agencies."
He said the S.W.A. sponsorship was within their budget and he believes it is a worthy cause to help develop the local weightlifting fraternity.
He noted that weightlifting is a sport where Samoa has already won an Olympic medal and they continue to exceed expectations with their international success.
For the S.W.A. Chief Executive Officer, Seugamaali’i Jammie Saena, she said they are doing everything they can to provide water where they could. Up until now, 85 percent of families in Samoa are connected to the water, she said.
The rest are covered by independent water schemes.
The independent water scheme is administered by the Independent Water Schemes Association with local Water Committees and the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development works towards providing reliable and sustainable access to clean, safe and affordable water for all Independent Water Schemes of Samoa.
The Association supports 31 village-managed independent water schemes which represent approximately 17% of the Samoan population.
Last month the Samoa Weightlifting Team utilised their new Samoa Water Authority Samoa High Performance Elite Training Centre, at the Gym 3 in Tuanaimato.
Seugamaali’i told the Samoa Observer S.W.A. did not contribute to the training center; their sponsorship was given to the team for the recent Pacific Games.
“We didn’t give anything for that; they just put S.W.A. there because we are a naming sponsor,” she said referring to the training centre.
Seugamaali’i told the Samoa Observer their $200,000 sponsorship was given directly to the team.
“During the Pacific games, everyone gave money to the Pacific Games Office, but we didn’t. We directly gave it to the team. We donated to the team,” she said.
According to Seugamaali’i, their sponsorship was not just for the Pacific Games, as they were also keen on assisting the team in their preparations for international tournaments.
“Our arrangement with them is not for Pacific Games only; we wanted to use the money for a longer period, not just with the Pacific Games; such as their preparations for Thailand and to China to qualify four additional weightlifters for the World Cup.”
Seugamaali’i said the sponsorship is within their budget.
“The contract is for 12 months and they’ve got a quarter left of the sponsorship,” she said.
The C.E.O. is adamant that sponsoring the weightlifting team is worth it.
“Wouldn’t you rather sponsor a team that wins us gold medals?”
In July, the weightlifting team won 16 golds, seven silvers and 10 bronzes in the Pacific Games portion of the four-in-one International Weightlifting Championships.
Seugamaali’i said the weightlifting team also contributes in promoting of S.W.A.’s services to the public.
“It’s not only sponsoring our local teams that carry the Samoan name but least we have something to contribute to the sporting community, and help get our message out.
“They spread our message, every time they have advertisements they say ‘Save Water’ and if you go on their website, they share our stuff. So it’s a win-win but more so to help the team,” said the C.E.O.
*Reporter Soli Wilson contributed to this story.