P.M. calls Samoa Observer reporter "cheeky"

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has labelled a Samoa Observer reporter as “cheeky” for a report she filed on comments he made defending the Director General of the Ministry of Health.

Tuilaepa criticism was directed at Samoa Observer reporter, Talaia Mika, on Friday evening. 

Those remarks followed an article published in the Weekend Observer under her byline titled P.M. defends Health chief’s late night dance”.

The story quoted extensively from comments made by the Prime Minister on radio defending health chief Leausa Dr. Take Naseri after a video circulated showing the health boss stripping down to his underpants and dancing with a woman to DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night.”

In his initial comments, the Prime Minister defended Leausa’s actions as being in accordance with Samoan culture and an action he considered a private matter. The Prime Minister also said that Leausa had apologised to the Cabinet. 

But on Friday evening an announcer from the state-owned 2AP radio station asked the Prime Minister about the article, which the reporter said implicated Tuilaepa as seeking to “protect” Leausa.

In response, Tuilaepa asked for the identity of the reporter. 

“Who is this cheeky girl?,” the Prime Minister asked. 

“What’s her name? Poor girl; she does not understand what I am talking about.  

“The issue is, I can talk about it because I am an adult and I understand, but she’s too young and lacks knowledge of our culture and traditions.” 

The Prime Minister questioned whether Ms. Mika had ever seen a bodybuilding competition. 

“If she had watched a bodybuilding competition and then go and see the way we [Samoans] celebrate and how this soga’imiti showing traditional tattoo in Samoa, she would understand,” he said. 

“I hope the Editor will look at this to improve their newspaper but don’t let women [...] write such articles [that show] their lack of knowledge.

 “I don’t think she understood the explanation given on the traditional dancing; she doesn’t understand. And because the matter was written in an ill-mannered way.”

Tuilaepa said he was speaking as the leader of the nation but also as a High Chief and said that young women did not understand Samoan traditions. 

During his initial public comments on the dance, Tuilaepa said the controversial video is a “storm in a teacup” and a “waste of time.” 

Last week, a video was circulating online showing the Director General removing most of his clothing while dancing to band DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night.” 

In the video, obtained by the Samoa Observer, Leausa invites a woman to dance with him, has her sit on a chair by the stage and raises his leg over her body. 

At this stage he is halfway undressed, with just a white singlet pulled up over his head revealing his entire chest.

Later, he unfastens the belt of his ‘ie faitaga and removes it, throwing it over his head, leaving his blue undergarments exposed. 

The Prime Minister said in his radio interview that people making an issue about the dance are “not Samoans” and they don’t understand the nature of Samoan entertainment.

The Prime Minister said the matter has already been brought before the 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 the 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,” he said. 

Tuilaepa did not say what the conference was and who paid for the party.

Leausa declined to comment when asked by the Samoa Observer whether the dancing took place at an official Ministry of Health function held on March 13 at the Tanoa Tusitala hotel. 

That function followed the Annual Health Sector Forum function on March 13 which discussed, among other things, Samoa's response to the coronavirus and the country's lack of testing kits.


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