P.M. defends Health chief's late night dance
The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has scoffed at calls for the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, to step down over a video where he is seen stripping down to his underpants while dancing with a woman to DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night.”
Speaking during an interview with Radio 2AP on Friday, Tuilaepa said the controversial video is a “storm in a tea cup” and a “waste of time.” He said people making an issue about it are “not Samoans” and they don’t understand the nature of Samoan entertainment.
The Prime Minister said the matter has already been brought before Cabinet.
“The Chief Executive Officer has already apologised to Cabinet,” Tuilaepa said. “So Cabinet advised him to exercise wisdom and foresight, and stay away from those ancient things.”
When Leausa appeared before Cabinet, Tuilaepa said he asked the Director General to explain what had happened that night.
“So he said it was just a fiafia (party). They had been busy with the measles and when that had just finished, they had a small fiafia. It was a conference they had that ended in a party.”
Tuilaepa did not say what the conference was and who paid for the party.
“You know these things they always end up with dancing in accordance to our customs and traditions. So (he told me) that it was finishing and there were about 15 of them left and they bought some beers and they were singing and dancing.
“So he showed his tatau, his Samoan attire. Like all sogaimiki (a wearer of the tatau), they all want to show off their Samoan attire.”
Tuilaepa said Leausa was merely displaying his tatau when the video was taken. Asked about the Director General being in his underpants, Tuilaepa said "that’s why people who have no tatau are angry.”
He said this was typical Samoan dancing in ancient times.
“He was still wearing his underwear and it is said that he dropped his lavalava, so he picked it up and placed it above his shoulders and danced for another minute before he walked down.
“It was all done in spirit of laughter. But he was still wearing his traditional attire (tatau). See with the traditional Samoan attire for a man and a woman, it was made to be showcased and displayed, it wasn’t meant to be hidden.”
The Prime Minister said part of the debate has strongly focused on Leausa’s underpants.
“In the thinking of others, there are two attires, the traditional attire and the palagi one. You know when happiness is mixed with alcohol, there are times you forget things,” he said.
“He still had his Samoan attire and his underwear. So what’s the matter? I don’t know who these people are who are questioning this stuff.”
Tuilaepa added that it is not unusual for a lavalava to come off.
“Even that happened to me,” he said.
“I went to the funeral of someone who had served the Government for a long time. I wore an ie faitaga, one of those ones you tie. I was walking to the car when I saw people were looking at my legs when I realised that nearly all of it had come off.”
Getting back to Leausa, Tuilaepa said the Government operates on the general principle that “whatever you do in your private life, as long as your work is not affected.”
“As soon as your work is affected, you will be sacked but whatever you do away from the office is your freedom. In this case, it was Samoan entertainment,” he said referring to a practice called “sasae le maka o le aiku.”
“So who are those people (questioning this stuff? Are they Samoan? They are palagi, why are they bringing their palagi thinking to ruin our culture and traditions?”
On Thursday, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.), Aiono Mose Sua, confirmed he had asked Leausa to explain his actions.
The video showed that the Director General was not doing a Samoan dance.
Leausa declined to answer when asked by the Samoa Observer if he had been filmed at an official Ministry of Health function on Friday 13 March at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel which one witness described as rowdy.
That function followed the Annual Health Sector Forum which discussed, among other things, Samoa's response to the coronavirus and the unavailability of testing kits.