Death of Chinese man, measles epidemic and accountability in a time of crisis

On Friday morning, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, did exactly what a leader should do. Following the outrage over the killing of a Chinese man last month, as the leader of this nation, he fronted up.

The Prime Minister delivered a eulogy at Cao Yaqing’s funereal at Sefo’s Funeral Parlour with a very strong message. One that is worth repeating.

“This country is administered under the law and lawless behaviour will be dealt with severely,” the Prime Minister told mourners, who were predominantly Chinese, many of them having flown over from China for the funeral.

“Samoa is a Christian state with Christian people. I want assure our potential interested investors that Samoa is a politically stable country.

 “We do however detest behaviours that are repugnant. Our people are dedicated to the ideals of human rights, freedom and democracy.”

For the uninitiated, Mr. Cao was the victim of a robbery at Vaitele last month.

From what we’ve been told, four men armed with machetes and knives broke into the Pacific Trade and Industry compound wanting to steal a “large quantity” of money on the premises – when their criminal plan was interrupted.

During the ensuing confrontation, Mr. Cao was killed. Two other Chinese nationals were injured and required urgent medical attention.

Last week, Gogosina Leilua, Tafi Samuelu, Kome Sioeli and Mikaele Leilua appeared before Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke in the Supreme Court for their alleged role in the robbery.

They are scheduled to return to Court on Tuesday. In the meantime, Prime Minister Tuilaepa has assured the family of Mr. Cao that the people responsible will face the full brunt of the law.

 “Our hearts are with the grieving family in their time of sorrow,” he said. “We are saddened with the untimely death of this innocent and devoted servant of Samoa in terms of development.

“Many families in Samoa benefited from Yaqing’s efforts not only in terms of direct employment and providing support to their own children as well as it provides services to our wider community to meet their daily needs.”

We couldn’t agree more with Prime Minister Tuilaepa.

In fact, we acknowledge his leadership in fronting up in an attempt to mend relations, and send out a strong message that Samoa does not condone this type of behaviour.

It’s undeniable that the killing of an innocent man and inflicting injuries on innocent members of the public should not be taken lightly. And Tuilaepa rightly said the law must be used to send out the strongest of messages to deter anyone else thinking of going down the same path.  

On any other day, there will so much said about the death of the Chinese man.

It’s a death that should be a wake up call for everyone. Sadly, the funeral of Mr. Cao was held amidst the tragedy of the measles epidemic that has gripped this nation. At the time of writing, 44 people have died. The majority of them are innocent young babies and children. This is not a small number.

These are two very separate cases. 

Let’s not confuse them.

But looking at the pain and suffering of thousands of people in Samoa, one of these days, Prime Minister Tuilaepa, as the leader of the nation, will need to find the same courage to front up and explain how this has come about. 

There has got to be an explanation from the leaders of this country – as to how under their watch – this was allowed to happen. We don’t need finger pointing and the usual name-calling that comes with these things, we just want the truth.

Indeed, people need to be assured that what is happening today will not happen again tomorrow.

You see, the jury is still out on what caused this health crisis. We say this because there are so many theories and so many things are being blamed. From low vaccination rates, anti-vaccination campaigns to traditional healers and what have you.  

Whatever your theory is, this country needs to be asking itself some very, very serious questions. Look around. While measles has spread to American Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands and other nearby countries, no one has died in those countries as a result.

Why Samoa? The fact is 44 people have died and many more will die before this is all over.

We cannot swallow this anomaly and move on as if it’s normal. This is not normal. We have got to account for these 44 deaths and possibly more, as we would do with any death. One life lost is one too many.

Many of these precious innocent lives should have been spared. Somewhere, somehow, this country failed these lives. And somebody has to be accountable.

That said, we want to again offer our appreciation to all the health workers who are toiling day and night to battle this crisis. We can only pray for strength and courage in the face of adversity. We can only pray for wisdom and super natural ability to help them in these difficult times.

We also want to acknowledge all the helping hands who have been mobilized in Samoa’s hour of need. Through all these different donor countries, development partners, organisations, groups, churches and every individual, we have seen hope amidst chaos. We have seen joy in adversity.

Let’s continue to pull together Samoa.

At this point, we want to extend our deepest condolences to the family of the Chinese man killed at Vaitele and to the families of the 44 Samoans who have so far been claimed by the measles crisis.

Have a restful Sunday Samoa and may God help our country!








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