Anti-vaccination activist brought to Upolu

Prominent anti-vaccination activist, Edwin Tamasese, who was arrested in Savaii last Thursday, has been brought by Police to Upolu ahead of an expected court date.

The Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, said that the anti-vaccination activist was accompanied by Police Officers from the Mulifanua wharf to Police headquarters in Apia where he was questioned further.

“After questioning, he will be transferred to Tanumalala Prison where he will be kept until [his] court hearing,” he said.

Mr. Tamasese was denied bail on Thursday for risk of reoffending, according to a statement from the Attorney General's Office.

He has been charged with violating section 41 of the 2013 Crimes Act which forbids inciting hostility against the Government of Samoa in circumstances where a risk of "lawlessness, violence, or disorder" is present.

The allegation is that Mr. Tamasese made an ominous social media post with reference to the Government’s mass vaccination drive, which kicked off on November 20: "I will be here to mop up your mess. Enjoy your killing spree."

He was brought into a Police station for questioning on Thursday before charges were laid late on Thursday evening. 

The Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa'i, was asked on his perspective on anti-vaccination activists on social media going against the Government’s mass vaccination campaign.

He said that the Government is not wasting its valuable time to deal with nonsense on social media being posted by the anti-vaccination activists (commonly referred to as ‘anti-vaxxers’).

Afamasaga said that these ‘anti-vaxxers’ need to get out of the Government’s way.

“We want our people to live and a very simple message is vaccinate and you will live.  

“The safety of our people is a priority so we are not going to waste time on 'anti-vaxxers' but the law is on them and legal authorities are tracking them down.

“For us we are moving and pushing to ensure that Government’s objective is achieved which is for its entire people to be protected [vaccinated] and no more deaths.”

Mr. Tamasese had extensive links with members of the global anti-vaccination movement, including those in Australia and New Zealand. He has promoted the use of non-clinically proven ‘treatments’ for measles such as vitamins A and C and actively discouraged people in villages from attending hospitals or being vaccinated. 

Afamasaga added that technology played a major role during the mass vaccination campaign.

“With the Prime Minister spearheading the whole reforms in technology, this is a classic example of what technology can do to assist work and cut down expenses, saves time.

“This is a demonstration of everyone volunteering their time to work together in achieving this cause [campaign] for our people.

“Now that we have three [internet fibre] cables coming it’s time for Samoa to build its capacity and for the IT sector to build their capacity and thrive.”

He also acknowledged the foreign support in aiding the Samoan people with measles epidemic.

“We are witnessing so much foreign support through volunteers, supplies and donations. Samoans all over the world are donating as well.

“The Government extends its heartfelt gratitude towards all the support from everyone.”

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