“I’m late to Cabinet,” P.M. stops students singing Lord’s Prayer

An incident, where Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi abruptly stopped students while they were singing the Lord’s Prayer, raised eyebrows during a launch event, on Tuesday.

The incident happened during the U.N.D.P. Spotlight Initiative Samoa – Fautasi o Toa Challenge launch on the black sand beach in Apia, attended by the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II, members of the diplomatic corps among other guests.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa was the keynote speaker. After the opening prayer by Father Filipo Kapeli, students from St. Mary’s College and Don Bosco were singing the Lord’s prayer when Tuilaepa grabbed the microphone and told them to stop.

It was their second song, after they had opened with “Si ou alofa oe.”

 “I have to go because I am thirty minutes late to a Cabinet meeting,” Tuilaepa said, before he proceeded to greet the dignitaries and deliver his address.

Some guests were visibly shocked.

Questions were sent to the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, Nanai Lave Tuiletufuga, to determine what was so important that the Prime Minister would stop the Lord’s Prayer.

There was no response at press time.

Contacted for a comment, the Principal of Don Bosco Technical College, Su’a Mane Su’a, said students from their school were invited to sing hymns at the event.

 “In the programme we were given, we had to sing the song that was stopped by the Prime Minister because he wanted to rush off to his Cabinet meeting,” Su’a said.

 “It was part of the programme that we were given to sing the Catholic hymn [O le Tatalo a le Alii] with other students from St. Mary’s [College]. We brought the piano to play and sing the song. I guess the Prime Minister was in a rush but the song was nearly finished.”

The Samoa Observer was among media organisations invited to the event and witnessed what happened.

Asked how the students took the incident, Su’a said it was not a nice thing to happen at a big ceremony, especially from the perspective of a Samoan.

However, he said it was “soon forgotten” and the students continued with the programme.

 “We all understand our Prime Minister and how he is but that’s okay,” Su’a said.

Asked for a comment, U.N.D.P. Resident Representative, Jorn Sorensen, declined to talk about what happened except to express his appreciation towards the Prime Minister for making the time to attend.

“It’s so important that when we talk about our efforts to combat violence against women and children, it’s so important that we have senior Government officials supporting it, considering what this is about and the importance of the topic,” Mr. Sorensen said. “It’s good to see that both the Honourable Prime Minister and also the Head of State came for this event.

 “It was a great event, well organised and very motivating and encouraging seeing all these very strong Samoan women who are now going to compete on an equally with the men.”

The Fautasi o Toa all-women crew will do battle with four other teams on Friday.

“I am sure they will do very well,” Mr. Sorenson said. “It makes you appreciate the messaging that is domestic violence and violence against women and children is not acceptable and that we fully support equality and equal opportunities for everyone.”

The following questions were sent to Nanai: 

1. Why did the Prime Minister stop the students from finishing their hymn?

2. Was there an important reason why he had to rush off?

3. What was he feeling at the time when he decided to interrupt the students?

4. Hymns are an important part of church services; does the Prime Minister think that hymns are not as important as prayers hence why he stopped the students from singing?

5. Any further comments?



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