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Church TV station apologises for fa'afafine debate

A debate on whether Samoa’s fa'afafine can run for public office has backfired when it was televised on a church-run television station.

The debate between two youth groups from the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa [C.C.C.S.] was televised on the E.F.K.S. TV2 channel on Wednesday evening.

But the public reaction to the debate was instantaneous with members of the public including the fa'afafine community taking to social media to condemn the debate and its participants.

The public outcry led to the C.C.C.S General Secretary, Reverend Vavatau Taufao appearing in a Facebook livestream on Thursday evening to apologise to the faafafine community who were offended by the debate.

He said the organisers of the debate had good intentions and that was to develop the debate knowledge and skill of the youth involved.

“Last night, we (televised) a debate on one of the topics which has insulted the feelings of some of our country members,” he said.

“Our dear fa'afafine association and every fa'afafine, we will not hide the truth and we do not have the ability to bring back what has been said. 

“We predominantly ask that you forgive us for we were wrong with our service.”

The apology by the Secretary General was also live streamed on Facebook and went viral, logging over 18,000 views within 22 hours and 600-plus reactions together with 200-plus comments.

He added that it was the church’s own blunder and the debate programme organisers were at fault for choosing the wrong topic.

The debate participants were divided into those who were for and against, with Rev. Vavatau emphasising that those who were in the opposing team only argued in line with their objectives as debaters. 

“We believe the ideas and thoughts [expressed in the debate by the debaters] were not their real perspectives, so we ask that the youths involved in this programme be forgiven as they only strived to win the debate and the topics they were given,” he said.

Rev. Vavatau further reiterated that they do not take lightly the contributions of the fa'afafine to their families, Christianity and Samoa.

It was not the church’s intention to criticise nor insult fa’afafine through this debate, but rather for the youth to express their thoughts, he added.

“With your pained feelings and emotions, we pray that Christ give you peace and that the blessings of God be poured upon you,” said Rev. Vavatau.

“We also pray that we continue to work together for the better of our church, country, village and families."

Attempts to get a comment from the Samoa Fa’afafine Association President were unsuccessful by press time.

Former members of Parliament, Faumuina Wayne Fong and Olo Fiti Vaai were among the judges of the debate on Tuesday, which was later televised on the church-owned TV station on Wednesday.

Faumuina, in a post on his Facebook page on Thursday morning, said the anger directed at them as judges by some members of the fa'afafine community was misconceived.  

He said they did not like the topic in the first place and the debaters only argued for the purposes of the debate and nothing else.

"Olo also clarified in his final speeches that this issue shouldn't have been a topic but it was the topic given to us by the programme to work on," he added.

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