S.N.D.P. says Government too slow on measles

Samoa's newest opposition party has criticised the Government as being too slow to respond to the measles crisis and called upon the broader Government and the Ministry of Health's Director General, Leausa Dr Take Naseri to resign in its wake. 

At a press conference on Friday the Samoa National Democratic Party’s (S.N.D.P.) interim leader, Vui Seigafolava Masinamua, argued the entire Government and Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.) must share the blame for Samoa's response to the epidemic. 

“Look at Tonga, Fiji and American Samoa, while they have the virus, no one died. The Government has been in power for more than 30 years yet they failed in ensuring the safety of the people through vaccination," he said. 

He said the suspension of the routine vaccination programme following the fatal incident in Savaii that cost two infants' lives had an impact. But he argued this was subsequently compounded by the Government giving voters a “choice” whether they want to vaccinate their children.

“And when the epidemic struck the Government turned around and blame the parents," he said. 

Vui further challenged the Government to sack the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa: "I call on his resignation". 

“The Prime Minister [Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi] should sack him. 

"The Government was acting based on the advice by Leausa [during the measles crisis]. Three months ago he (Leausa) downplayed the seriousness of the impact of measles."

Vui went even further and suggested that the entire Government and members of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P) should tender their resignations as the fallout from the epidemic continues.

Comment was sought from Leausa but not returned by press time.

But the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, laughed off the call for the C.E.O. of Health, the entire Cabinet and H.R.P.P. members to resign from office following the epidemic that has taken 72 lives. 

In response, the Prime Minister said he was reminded of the 2009 tsunami when considering the measles crisis. The said tsunami claimed the lives of 143 people in Samoa. 

The disaster also claimed 33 people in American Samoa and nine in Tonga. 

“Does that mean that when someone dies from a crisis, a Commission of Inquiry is conducted and the relevant authorities are sacked? That is now the Government operates and who will go and investigate what triggered the tsunami," he said. 

“Who would investigate as to why parents refuse to immunise their children, yet the immunisation campaign have rolled out.”

Tuilaepa refused to answer further questions on the matter. 

“I will not answer that again. One of the most important quotes from the Bible [is] don’t respond to idiots. That’s what the Bible says. And the reason behind this quote is that you shouldn’t respond back and forth, it would be hard to determine who is the stupid one if the debate continues," Tuilaepa said. 

Vui denied that the party's statements were “politically motivated” and said they had in fact been challenged by members of the public about their silence on the issue. 

“Even media personnel have also asked us about our views on the epidemic that has taken more than 70 lives. And we waited until the crisis has calmed down to make this announcement,” he said.

The S.N.D.P. is Samoa’s newest opposition party. It is a re-creation of the old opposition party, the Samoa National Development Party.

The Prime Minister spoke at the party’s launch in September.

Vui said during the press conference the S.N.D.P. has three containers of care packages for measles patients heading to Samoa and they will be giving out assistance from next week.

“We visited the hospital and that’s where we found out the hospital does not provide sheets and pillows and this is what’s in the first container. There will also be care packages for families affected by the measles," he said. 

More care packages will arrive in coming months, he said. 

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