P.M. defends privatisation record
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi has responded to concerns about the Government’s policy towards privatisation and past sales of public assets.
Tuilaepa said the reason why the Government had privatised its assets is to avoid operating on a loss.
He was responding to issues raised by former Cabinet Minister, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao over the Government’s decision to sell SamoaTel to Bluesky in the past.
La’auli said the Government sold the company for $11 million and Bluesky then sold it to Vodafone for $86 million tala, which he said should have reaped profits for the public.
In his ministerial speech on Monday, Tuilaepa stressed the Government’s policy on privatisation addresses change in time but its foundation remains.
He used the example of the Human Rights Protection Party [H.R.R.P.] initiative to establish the Samoa Land Corporation, where land from WESTEC was subdivided so that people can own freehold lands.
Tuilaepa said the intention of the Government was so that people that have come out of retirement can own a quarter acre of land in the urban area from Vaitele, Vailele and Tafaigata.
However, that changed when people had abused the initiative by reselling the land to the wealthy and returned to the S.L.C. seeking more land.
“These two M.Ps [La’auli and Olo] that continue to complain are owners of some of those lands,” said Tuilaepa.
He said the M.Ps use those lands acquired for their businesses like the petrol station, the supermarket, a nightclub, a venue to host weddings and even bingo games.
“The land is intended for low-income people who cannot own freehold land from Manono, Apolima, Savaii and Upolu,”said the Prime Minister.
“But the problem is some of the people in the area don't own just a quarter acre of land but two to three acres of land.
“People sold their one quarter acre of land to the rich for $150k to $200k, giving away land given to them by the Government to live on.”
Tuilaepa said since these issues came to light, the Government has decided the lands under S.L.C. will no longer be sold but is leased out to people.
He stressed that the changes are in line with the Government's policy on privatisation where methods change but the foundation remains.
Turning to the S.L.C., he said, the corporation had not carefully screened applications of those applying for land.
But understandably, he added, it is because applicants had used other peoples' names to obtain more land.
“This is the only way to stop the greedy is prohibiting the sale of the lands again,” he added.
Tuilaepa said he is trying to explain these issues to "shine some light on the mind of those that are still in the dark, and want to remain in the dark."
He warned that small knowledge is indeed dangerous knowledge, saying that the changes were administered from the time of the late Prime Minister, Tofilau Eti Alesana, Polataivao Fossie and others including him.
“The whole reason behind the privatisation policy that is practiced in many other countries is to avoid the Government going into bankruptcy and operating at a loss,” he said.
“It is human nature that when it's public [assets] they don’t care about it, but only if it’s your own asset then you treat it with care and look after it and that is the reason why the WESTEC was broke and the H.R.P.P. made the changes.”
Independent M.P. for Gagaifomauga no3, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao then took the floor to speak about the matters raised by the Prime Minister.
But Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi reminded the M.P. that under Standing Orders the matter cannot be debated.
He told the M.P. that the matters the Prime Minister raised about his father were not intended to talk poorly about his father, but to remind about his hard work with those who have passed.
But La’auli objected, saying that the claims by the Prime Minister are serious and he should be given the opportunity to respond.
Furthermore, La’auli said he is no God and he cannot sit back and let the Prime Minister make "such nonsense claims."
“Don’t underestimate my views,” said La’auli.
“Everything you do is not right. Honorable Speaker, you are my only shelter, I ask that you tell the Prime Minister to stop being disrespectful and watch what he says.”
But Prime Minister Tuilaepa took the floor saying that he was merely clarifying matters raised by La’auli.
He added that no matter where the M.P. goes he will be there to offer clarification on everything he raised.
Speaker Leaupepe then intervened to calm the House.
He reminded Members that the Prime Minister and Cabinet will not let matters go without proper clarification, and asked the Assembly to move on to the Government response.
Parliament continues with the Cabinet Ministers now responding to matters raised by M.Ps in the budget debate.