Acting P.M. strikes back over absence
The Acting Prime Minister, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers-Ah Kau, has angrily hit back at coverage that noted she was out of the country during a week the nation’s measles epidemic was declared to have grown by 60 per cent.
The Samoa Observer on Wednesday of this week published a story noting that Faimalotoa had spent November 5 to November 12 out of the country, much of it at a conference in Brisbane, Australia. The story was under the headline, "Minister abroad as measles spreads".
Three of those days were devoted to attending a Pacific Women in Power conference co-funded by Australia and Japan and with the United Nations sponsorship. The remainder of her itinerary for her time away was not provided by her office.
“I feel that the article was a personal attack with one ulterior motive to defame me and Government as a whole,” Faimalotoa writes in a letter to the Editor published in full in today’s edition.
“I am very disappointed and amazed with this brand of irresponsible and so called investigative journalism.”
While she was away, the Ministry of Health released an update showing the number of suspected measles cases in Samoa had grown from a little more than 300 to a little more than 500.
Two days after her return, and after Faimalotoa had assumed the role of Acting Prime Minister, she declared a State of Emergency in response to the measles epidemic on Friday night.
Faimalotoa said her absence from the country reflected her confidence in staff who were ready to assume her role, including the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, who took over as acting Health Minister the Director General and senior management.
“You never bothered to ask why I was absent from the country with the full blessings from the Prime Minister and Cabinet,” she writes.
Emailed questions to the Ministry of Health were not responded to that week and three separate officials from that department declined to be interviewed. One phone call to Faimalotoa was not answered but her mobile was otherwise out of range; her office was also contacted for comment but declined.
Faimalotoa said the article’s pointing out that the conference included sessions on social media and effective political campaigning and she was not one of the Samoan delegates addressing the conference were details included with the aim of undermining the Ministry.
“To attempt to belittle the response by our Health Sector with the full support from our local and international stakeholders without justification is unethical to say the least and should be a mortal sin as prescribed by the Media Code of Ethics,” Faimalotoa writes.
She notes she is requesting the Media Council to look into the story, which she considers borders on defamatory.
“So I am calling you out by asking your publication to investigate why I received instructions and the green light to leave the country under these circumstances,” she writes.
“That should have been the story.
“Also investigate the bigger picture, look into the benefits not just for Government but Samoa as [a] whole that our people stands to reap including the Samoa Observer from attending these International Conferences.”
The full letter, dated yesterday, reads as follows:
To the Samoa Observer Newspaper
Firstly, thank you to the Samoa Observer for the front page coverage. But I am very disappointed and amazed with this brand of irresponsible and so called investigative journalism.
I feel that the article was a personal attack with one ulterior motive to defame me and Government as a whole.
As a veteran media practitioner, I note that the article failed to follow one of the most important fundamentals in journalism and that is fairness.
Remember our basic journalism rule? The 5 Ws? (What, when, who, where and why. And don’t forget the H-How.). Not only was I not accorded the opportunity to respond but most importantly you never bothered to ask why I was absent from the country with the full blessings from the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
So I am calling you out by asking your publication to investigate why I received instructions and the green light to leave the country under these circumstances. That should have been the story and it was not because I attended but “...did not speak at the conference, which included sessions on effective political campaigning and social media use in parliament,” as quoted by your newspaper. That quote bym itself is another clear pre-school attempt by your publication to ridicule and embarrass myself and Government.
But again, you never bothered to find out – Why?
Also investigate the bigger picture, look into the benefits not just for Government but Samoa as whole that our people stands to reap including the Samoa Observer from attending these International Conferences.
And since it’s already public record through your publication again, find out how Samoa is benefiting from the millions of dollars in grant funding from our international community. That should also provide your answers to why a separate Samoa delegation (including Health ACEO Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen) is in Kenya this Week.
The Samoa Observer article clearly questions the integrity of not just the Minister of Health but Government as a whole and hundreds of personnel involved with the hands on response.
For the record, my absence reaffirms the confidence and respect that I hold for the Director General of Health and Management not to forget our highly qualified competent health professionals who are working tirelessly day and night to provide health services needed by the whole of Samoa.
That confidence is further cemented with the endorsement from the Prime Minister who served as Acting Minister of Health in my absence and also the entire Cabinet.
To attempt to belittle the response by our Health Sector with the full support from our local and international stakeholders without justification is unethical to say the least and should be a mortal sin as prescribed by the Media Code of Ethics.
On that note, I publicly implore the Media Council to kindly look into to these injustices which borders on defamation.
Also kindly allow me this opportunity to reiterate on behalf of the Prime Minister, Cabinet and Government my sincere appreciation to everyone who is playing a role, directly and indirectly for your support and patience as we face the daunting Measles Epidemic challenge that lies ahead. The epidemic is a universal problem and we must all play our role to ensure that no-one is left behind.
Faimalotoa Kika Stowers-Ah Kau
ACTING PRIME MINISTER- MINISTER OF HEALTH
P.S; Because your article was published on the front page, this communication must also be published on the front page. In addition, it should also be published verbatim as I was never afforded the opportunity to defend myself and the Office that Hold.
Let us unite in prayers as we seek our Almighty’s continued blessings, guidance and protection for a Safe Samoa.