Wedding stopped during lockdown

A wedding at the Livingstone Church at Vaitele on Saturday was stopped by the Police as it was viewed to be in breach of the State of Emergency (S.O.E.) orders.

Police Commissioner, Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil, told Samoa Observer that he got officers dispatched to the church with orders to disband the gathering as it was in breach of the S.O.E. orders.

He said they were expecting breaches like these following the Government’s declaration of the S.O.E. midnight Friday for 14 days.

"I was told there was one at Vaitele and officers were dispatched to that location this afternoon (Saturday) to disband that gathering. It does not conform with the order of the State of Emergency,” he said.

"We are expecting there are going to be more incidents like this so we are doing our best to respond to each one and we are talking about Savai’i and Upolu. We have a command post that is standing by to answer any inquiries of any citizen.”

Fuiavaili'ili added that another command post was set up to assist Police officers, especially in relation to matters that are complex in nature, and would warrant the command centre explaining their role and they can handle certain situations.

“As far as I know they responded and they have to respond to those gatherings because some of these folks might not know, they might have thought they can get away with it, I don’t know the particulars. But if we’re told and we respond, we will act accordingly."

A church official, Pastor Luamanuvae Lene Luamanuvae, confirmed that the wedding was held on Saturday at the Livingstone Church and was just the blessing of his daughter’s wedding.

He told Samoa Observer that they did not know there was a ban on public gatherings until they heard the announcement by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi on Friday night.

The ban became effective 12am on Saturday.

“We only found out about the Prime Minister’s announcement at around 12am but we have already prepared everything for the wedding, we paid for the hall and there were even pastors from New Zealand (who came for the wedding). We didn’t know that the Prime Minister gave the announcement at 5pm,” he said.

Pastor Luamanuvae said the total cost of the event including venue hire, airfares and preparations was approximately $20,000 and added that they had approached the Prime Minister's office to request that their event is exempted from the S.O.E. orders.

Mrs. Luamanuvae confirmed the arrival of three Police officers, but the program had already ended by the time they arrived.

“Our wedding wasn’t allowed to be held. We paid for a hall. There was only a wedding service, no reception took place. Food was given out at the end of the service. It was all done through the decision of the pastor," she said. 

"Three police officers came to the church and we told them that we held the service according to the pastor's decision.”

Asked how many guests attended the wedding, Mrs. Luamanuvae said less than 100 turned up.

“I know that there were less than 100 people here. It was a quick service.”

This story was updated 3pm Sunday, March 22 (local time) as the original article incorrectly reported that the Police officers arrived during the wedding. It is understood three Police officers arrived at the church after the blessing of the wedding program ended.  

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