Minister of Police denies Police entered churches
The Police Minister, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, denied that officers entered a church on Sunday to enforce state of emergency limits on attendances at public gatherings.
Tialavea said that an internal investigation had been launched into reports of a Police presence at the Vaiusu Catholic Church on Sunday:
“While Police are visiting Churches on Sunday to determine if denominations are following state of emergency orders but they are not allowed to enter the church and remove people during the sermons.
“They did not disrupt the service.
“We may have done it in the past, removing people from inside the church when the [state of emergency limits were] first implemented but that stopped. We are a ChristCountry and disrupting church services is not right.”
The Minister spoke to the Samoa Observer in response to an article on the front page of Monday’s newspaper (“ Police enforce S.O.E. orders; remove churchgoers”).
“If the Police were there, then it must be for another reason, but they were not instructed to disrupt the church services,” the Minister said.
“They know better.
“The Police Officers did not, under any circumstances, enter the church building>’
Tialavea did, however, confirm Police were on patrol on Sunday to enforce state of emergency limits on public gatherings, including church services.
“The Police were also seen at our church in Si’usega but they did not enter the church building, they went and spoke directly with our Priest and were reminded about the [state of emergency] rules,” the Minister said.
“I did not give such an order, as well as the Commissioner of Police [Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil],” said the Minister.
The Minister also expressed his disappointment with a photo that accompanied the story saying that it’s “misleading”.
A photo from the newspaper’s archives accompanied the story in Monday’s edition. The photo was not taken on Sunday.
“The photo makes it seem like this happened in Vaiusu on Sunday when it is not. This is one stupid mistake,” said the Minister.
“That photo was taken last year for some operation that I can’t recall, but to use it for something over the weekend is wrong.”
The Minister used the opportunity to warn the Church Ministers about recently amended state of emergency orders limiting the number of people at Sunday services to 100 people or fewer,
“We are depending on the Reverends, Pastors, Priests and the Deacons to enforce the [state of emergency] restrictions,” Tialavea said.
“For our church in Si’usega we have two masses on Sunday, this is to cater for our members.”
Tialavea urged members of the public to assist their Ministers..
Meanwhile, the Deacon of the Vaiusu Catholic Church, Paulo Mulipola, said he did not see any Police Officers at the church.
“I did not see any Police officers here but I made an announcement to my congregation in the morning regarding the state of emergency before our service started that we need to follow it,” the Deacon told the Samoa Observer on Tuesday,
“I made it clear that whatever was ordered [by the Government] we should follow and that we should comply.”
The Deacon said the church supports the orders “as safety comes first.”
Speaking on his 2AP programme last week, the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, emphasised the need for churches to restrict the number of their congregation members in line with state of emergency limits.
He said the Police would be counting the number of people in churches and penalties will follow if there are any breaches.
“If a church disobeys the orders, it’ll be on the pastor’s head because he’s the one looking after the church,” Tuilaepa said.
“It’s also convenient to fine the pastor so the church members can all pay for it and so they would all have a feel of what [the Government] is trying to push. These things are all for the protection of everyone.”