Appeal to recognise 'silent communicator'

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has explained the role of the woman dubbed the ‘silent communicator’ appearing alongside him at press conferences. 

Noue Mavaega has recently become the Prime Minister’s constant companion during recent press conferences about the coronavirus and the Government’s response. 

"She is doing her job for those with impaired hearing. They cannot hear this, and because they cannot hear, they are able to understand what she is performing or acting out in sign language," Tuilaepa said.

"People have been asking, who is that woman, our eyes are hurting, she is distracting, but they do not know that she is the professor in communicating what needs to be translated for those who cannot hear what I am saying."

Since Ms. Mavaega has been appearing in Tuilaepa's videos, translating for the deaf behind the national leader, she has been subject to petty remarks and online bullying by those who do not understand the role she plays.

The Nuanua o le Alofa (N.O.L.A.) Organisation took to social media pleading to the public to be considerate of others as they dealt with the ridicule of the sign language interpreters translating crucial information regarding the pandemic.

"Sign language has one purpose and that is to provide information to our deaf and hearing impaired communities who are being excluded by not having the information available," the Prime Minister said in an online statement. 

"Not having sign language means we are excluding members of our society from receiving information, that they need to access and be aware to protect themselves from this global threat."

Contacted for a comment, N.O.L.A. Manager, Mata'afa Faatino Utumapu, said people's reactions had proven "frustrating".

"I think disappointing is not the right word but it was really a frustrating thing, seeing the public's reaction towards sign language interpretation," she said.

The fact that people made fun of the sign language interpreter shows that some of these people are still in darkness while some need to go back into school, she said.

Mata'afa said the inclusion of sign language means a great deal to those who cannot hear, upholding the concepts of inclusiveness and fairness.

 "Without sign language, those who have impaired hearing or [are deaf] will continue to be put down and the minority in societies," she said.

"As the Manager of N.O.L.A. I was very much saddened by the actions of the public."

As the ‘silent communicator’, Ms. Mavaega is said to bring over 10 years’ experience from her field of expertise. 

Ms Mavaega holds a Certificate IV in Applied Science from the Auckland University of Technology and a Certificate III in Disability from the Australian Pacific Coalition-Samoa. In addition to her role as an interpreter she is also N.O.L.A.’s Policy and Research Coordinator.


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