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Priest denies Police presence report

The Priest of the Vaiusu Catholic Church, Father Patolo Matiasi, has denied reports that there was Police presence at his church on Sunday to enforce State of Emergency (S.O.E.) orders.

But when it was put to Father Patolo that his own church members told the Samoa Observer there was Police outside the church, he said the only Police officers present were “off-duty officers from Vaiusu” who were attending church.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, in response to a front page story on Monday that reported the removal of churchgoers due to the purported breaching of S.O.E. orders restricting congregation numbers, Father Patolo denied removal of church members.

“There were no [police officers] outside on Sunday prior to the mass, during or after,” he said.

“The only cops that were inside the church are off duty police officers from Vaiusu attending church. There were no cops at Vaiusu this past Sunday.”

On Tuesday, Police Minister Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, 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," Tialavea said.

“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 Christian country and disrupting church services is not right.” 

“If the Police were there then it must be for another reason, but they were not instructed to disrupt the church services.”

Father Patolo also questioned the use of a Samoa Observer photo, which showed policemen standing next to parked vehicles, saying it was not taken outside the church on Sunday and was misleading.

“That photo was not taken in Vaiusu and it was a misleading photo,” he said. 

Editor's note: The Samoa Observer wishes to clarify that the photo which accompanied the story being questioned was not taken outside the Vaiusu Church on Sunday. It was a file photo of Police officers at a different event. We accept that the caption of the photo should have specified this. It did not. We regret the inconvenience caused to the Police, the Vaiusu Catholic Church and our readers.


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