Associate Minister denies emergency breach
The Associate Minister of Health, Tofa Li'o Foleni, has denied breaching state of emergency orders by hosting a gathering of more than five people at his home in Sapapali'i this week.
A video shows well over five people present during the opening of his home (umusaga) over the weekend.
But Tofa insists that only five of those were invitees, while the rest are his children, meaning he did not breach the state of emergency orders.
According to the most recently amended state of emergency orders circulated by the Government the rules on large meetings are as follows:
“The restricted number of no more than 5 people [applies] to the following: (a) funerals, traditional title bestowals, birthdays, reunions; and (b) opening ceremonies for buildings (umusaga),” the orders read.
Five people are also the maximum number allowed to gather at funerals, traditional title bestowals, birthdays and reunions.
The Government’s Press Secretary, Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga, did not respond to questions about whether the hosts or family members counted towards the five-person restriction for events.
Calls and emails to the Police Commissioner and Deputy Police Commissioner regarding the matter were also not returned.
Contacted for a comment by this newspaper, Tofa who, is the Member of Parliament for Fa'asaleleaga No. 3 was adamant that he had not breached the state of emergency.
"My home was just blessed. It was only the Church Minister and his wife plus three Church Minister assistants who attended," said Tofa.
"That was in compliance with the Government's Orders in place, there were not more than five invitees to the occasion."
Whether or not public gathering restrictions allow assemblies to exceed the five-person limit is not expressly addressed in the state of emergency orders circulated by the Government.
"It was not a big umusaga. There was only a service to bless our home with the five invitees, and the rest were my children. Right after the service, we gave out the food and dispersed the gathering," added Tofa.
A circulated Facebook video of the occasion showed more than 20 attendees to the Associate Minister's home-opening including his children and grandchildren.
The service conducted by E.F.K.S. Sapapali'i Reverend Esera Auatama was followed by Tofa's son, Papali'i Kamuta Foleni, reporting on the project.
The formalities were followed by a tour inside the new family home and a traditional exchanging of gifts between the host and the guests.