Funeral restrictions an unexpected financial boost: P.M.

The Government has defended its decision to continue state of emergency (S.O.E.) orders to restrict the number of people attending funerals to five, citing economics as well as safety reasons. 

The S.O.E. order on funerals is one of several rules that limit the number of people allowed to gather at events such as traditional title bestowments, birthdays and opening ceremonies for buildings. 

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, said the Government not only had to consider measures for the sake of containing the potential spread of the coronavirus pandemic but also the financial restraints faced by people amid the global economic downturn. 

Tuilaepa said the Government has received requests to continue the restriction to limit the number of people attending funerals because families’ finances are depleted.

“It’s not only for us here who no longer have jobs but those living overseas who have become beggars because they don’t have enough money like before,” he said during his programme on state-owned radio 2AP this week. 

Tuilaepa pointed out that the new way of holding funerals is simple: with the limited numbers of participants’ means that a pastor comes in to say a prayer and the dead is buried right after. 

Instead of typical big contributions that families are used to at funerals, spending up to $50,000 on food and cultural presentations. But that has now changed to the simple sharing of a plate of sandwiches afterwards, the Prime Minister said.

Tuilaepa said the new trend of holding funerals is affordable for families and it poses the question of whether the previous practice was the best one for Samoa to follow.

“The important thing to consider is are we tying our own selves and blame our customs for it?” he asked. 

“But customs and traditions change but principles and values remain and those principles are to have a service for the mother or father we lost and that is the most important thing.”  

He added that the same traditions can be expressed by sharing a cup of tea and a sandwich after having a service for the dead.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was not unusual for family funeral expenses to run to over $50,000. 

Normally when the bereaved family is given gifts in the form of boxes of herrings, monetary donations and traditional mats, they normally have to reciprocate with future cash and food payments. 

That does not include gifts given to pastors and other high chiefs and distinguished guests who turn up unexpectedly to funerals. 

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