Govt. "lazy" on measles inquiry: La'auli

A call to conduct a commission of inquiry into the measles epidemic from Member of Parliament Laaulialemalietoa Leuaatea Schmidt sparked a heated exchange in Parliament on Thursday.

The Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, revisited the topic of last year’s epidemic which claimed 83 lives, mostly children, in a speech before Parliament on Thursday. 

La’aul, the Gagaeifomauga No. 3 M.P., took the opportunity to plead to launch a special inquiry into the issue to ensure the Ministry has left no stones unturned to learn substantial lessons for the future.

“If you have love [for Samoa], we should not be guessing or questioning what we should be doing next, 80 children have died, please, conduct a proper inquiry, a commission of inquiry so we can all be clear,” La’auli said.

“We should not be going forward blindly; we need to do a thorough inquiry into the matter.”

But that plea was abruptly interrupted by the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, who said the reason for the outbreak was already known.

He insisted that there had already been inquiries made into the causes of the epidemic.

“The reason is that parents would seek the help of traditional healers and present them to the hospital too late,” Tuilaepa said.

“Samoa has well understood this, what do you want? There have already been two commissions of inquiries, should we do another to tell us what we already know?”

In response, La’auli called the Government "lazy" for avoiding calls to conduct the special inquiry.

“The Government is [too] lazy to conduct the commission of inquiry, but we need to find out the truth,” La’auli said.

The former senior member of the current party of the Government who recently resigned, drew a warning from the Speaker of the House for La’auli to adhere to the orders of the Chamber to only speak when given the chance to.

The Acting Speaker of the House, Nafoitoa Tala'imanu Keti, affirmed that there is already a report on the matter before a Parliamentary Committee.

The Minister of Health said that Samoa does not need a special inquiry into the matter as it will only cost more money.

“In my observations, why should we waste more money for an inquiry into what happened when it is our disposition now that we make a solution to prevent the happening of any more incidents such as this,” said Faimalotoa.

She maintained that the reason why Samoa’s infection rate was so high was due to a low population immunity rate and the reliance of parents on traditional healers leading to late presentation at hospitals once they had contracted the illness.

Last month, the former Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, revived a call for the Government to launch a commission of inquiry into the measles crisis.

He challenged Tuilaepa in a paper titled “Anava a le Fuesuavai” he delivered regarding the Lands and Titles Court 2020; Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020, last week.

“It is noticed that in matters which are trifling, you Tuilaepa are so ready to call a commission of inquiry,” Tui Atua said. 

“Why is there no commission of inquiry into the measles epidemic in Samoa where 81 children died and where there is compelling evidence about the lack of preparation?  

“The strong resistance to a commission of inquiry implies a fear of discovery that the truth will be exposed.”

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