Olo and Faumuina question Christmas lights priorities

The Government's spending on Christmas lights during an economic downturn shows its priorities are out of order, former independent Members of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong, have alleged.  

Olo and Faumuina said lit-up Government buildings in Apia City, could have better spent their money, such as on a fund for the 83 victims of last year's measles crisis.

In October, the Samoa Observer revealed Cabinet issued an edict to its Ministries to limit their spending on this year's Christmas Lights Festival to $10,000. 

There are a total of 13 government ministries not including state-owned enterprises, suggesting total spending on the light show across Government must not exceed $130,000 following the issuing of the directive.  

Speaking during their weekly programme on E.F.K.S. TV2 on Thursday, Faumuina suggested the payment of a benefit to families who lost children in last year’s measles epidemic would be a much wiser use of the expenditure. 

"Yes it's nice to look at and may this not take away the spirit of Christmas, however, with about 13 Ministries in total, and state owned enterprises, altogether, they must be spending about $200,000 on these lights," Faumuina said.

"And yet when we asked them to give something for the families who suffered a loss, they said there was no money. So what are your priorities really, and which comes last?

"This means the priority has been given to the Ministries and those with the Government while the rest who have been afflicted by [the measles] crises are overlooked."

He also alleged the lights festival programme would work to benefit Chinese run stores.

Meanwhile, Olo said the Government seems to be directing the attention of the public away from more pressing issues, including the looming threat of coronavirus and seafarers crying for the Government to bring them home.

"The amount of money that has been spent on these lights is tremendous: however, just how many people exactly are fortunate enough to see it?," Olo said.

"These lights are only for a small portion of Samoa, which all this [estimated $200,000] is being spent on because by Christmas, [the] town will be empty; by then, us from Savaii and in the rural areas have already gone home.

"[Ninety] per cent of Samoa will not be enjoying the lights festival. And they continue to tell us that it is nice for the people? There is a difference between something that is nice and something that is useful."

The pair also questioned the National Emergency Operation Centre's (N.E.O.C.) claims that the two historical cases of coronavirus in Samoa have recovered.

The Ministry of Health on Monday reported that a pair of incoming passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 were both “historical” cases of the illness and posed no infection risk to the community. 

That followed the return of blood testing results conducted in New Zealand on a 23-year-old sailor and a 70-year-old who had arrived last month on an Auckland-Apia repatriation flight. 

Olo called out the N.E.O.C.'s "inconsistent" reporting of the cases' status in past weeks saying it seems they are afraid to tell the news to the nation straight.

The Government initially reported the first patient, the 23-year-old man, had returned a positive test but also a negative test a short time later. 

Conflicting swab tests were returned for both he and the second case continued to be reported until last week when Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi said the men had contracted diseases long before their arrival in Samoa. 

The results of official testing from New Zealand showed the men had contracted the disease in August and in May, according to the Ministry of Health’s statement. 

"The nation was worried and as you all heard the Prime Minister say not to worry unnecessarily, however, they need to tell it as it is," Olo said.

"Now they are telling us they have recovered, and yet they are holding the two previously infected men back while the rest have been released. This is where we question this recovery.

"If they were really recovered, they would have released them but that's not the case."

The two M.P.s had their seats declared vacant after they announced they would contest the April election for the new opposition party Fa'atuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.).

That declaration, by the Speaker of the Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Faafisi, was made because he said both M.P.s had fallen foul of anti-party switching legislation.

The M.P.s will appeal that decision next week. 

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