Opposition parties deride Nadi closure

The Government's move to close the Apia-Nadi flight route described by the Government as a negotiating tactic has been derided as “very silly” by Tautua Samoa leader, Afualo Luagalau Salele.

Last week Cabinet endorsed a move by the Government to close the Apia-Nadi flight route, to promote the use of Samoa Airways for passengers travelling between Samoa and Fiji.

The decision was revealed in a confidential Cabinet paper, FK(20)6 obtained by the Weekend Observer.

A few days later, the Prime Minister told the Government-owned newspaper Savali that the decision by the Cabinet was a ruse aimed to promote talks between the two airlines and revive discussions about a code-sharing agreement settled many years ago but which was never implemented.  

Tautua’s leader, Afualo, said it was irresponsible and very embarrassing for the Government to make such statements.

"At that political level, they have to respect the sovereignty of Fiji and likewise," said Afualo.

"Because if Fiji did anything like that to us, we would be around yelling: so what they did was irresponsible in the first place.

"Because the Minister [of Public Enterprise] was there and he should have consulted with the Prime Minister of Fiji or relevant Ministries responsible for the airline."

Afualo noted that it seems like Samoa Airways is on the path to repeating the failures of Polynesian Airlines. 

"That's the reason why privatisation was in place with Virgin Blue: to save us millions of dollars and even bankruptcy," he said.

"But now the Government is trying to resurrect the airline by pulling the resources into other avenues or other means to ensure that the airline survives.

"I think in the long run it's not going to work that way."

Instead of provoking negotiations, Samoa should seek to secure a good deal on its own terms, Afualo said. 

"They should not have done that, even if they had all the rights as a sovereign country, to decide where we steer the economy of the country but there is a lot of concern about it because we have been through that path before,” he said. 

The President of Samoa National Democratic Party, Vui Seigafolava Masinamua, said the Prime Minister had been dissembling when stating his reasons for the change. 

The fact that they tried to close the route has nothing to do with increasing options and decreasing travel prices for Samoans, he said.

"He says that the airline belongs to Samoa, but it does not. It belongs to his organisation, because if it did belong to the people, we would have had a say in it," said Vui.

"No one is bad mouthing [the Prime Minister] because they are the Government of the day but the problem is, once their decisions directly, heavily affect the people of Samoa, that's when we will be very angry.

"They serve the country."

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