Saleaula Chiefs set the record straight

The High Chiefs from the village of Saleaula in Savai'i have cleared the air with reasons for a public notice that aired on national television and radio last week.

The public notice indicated the village's disapproval of the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Party using the name of Saleaula to "lure" voters, promising to fight to return Saleaula's seat in Parliament, should they get elected to lead the country after the General Elections. 

Saleaula, and Salamumu in Upolu, were the two villages that once made up the traditional Constituency of Gagaemauga No. 1. 

New electoral boundaries have separated the villages into different electoral constituencies for the convenience of the voters. 

Saleaula is now under Gagaemauga No.2 while Salamumu is placed with one of the electoral constituencies in Upolu. 

However, in an interview with the Samoa Observer on Tuesday, Alofipo Peteli II set the record straight by explaining what prompted them to issue a public notice. 

He told this newspaper that the elders in the village are searching for the person who is responsible for writing the notice on behalf of the whole village, announcing it on television and radio. 

"The truth is, we have not met officially as a whole village to discuss the matter," Alofipo Peteli II told the Samoa Observer. 

"We did discuss, but only the elders (faiupu) were present at that meeting. What's written on that notice and the wording is far from what we discussed. 

"We didn't know about the notice until we were told that there is a notice from our village aired on television, and some people are not happy about the way it was written and the content of the notice. 

"We don't know who wrote that notice and gave it to television and radio station."

Said Alofipo, their disappointment stemmed from comments made by a high chief from Safotu, tarnishing the name of Saleaula, claiming "that Saleaula is a village run by children", during a consultation with F.A.S.T. over a week ago. 

"That was the main reason why we discussed the issue," Alofipo added. 

"The comments made by Lavea Natoe from Safotu were quite sensitive and we were very disappointed when we found out about what he had said. 

"The saddest part was that it was live on Facebook for the whole world to see. He (Lavea Natoe) claimed that our village is run by children and that we were happy that our Pule (authority) and seat were taken away. 

"He went as far as accusing our current M.P. of not doing anything to try and save Saleaula's seat.

"So a notice was supposed to highlight that part. Lavea and the comments he made were the targets. But now that we have heard the notice, it made it seems like we are not happy with La'auli and his party. 

"But that's not the case."

Alofipo reiterated that they have nothing against F.A.S.T. and their election policies. 

"We are not against F.A.S.T. and their promises. I believe that their manifesto is well-prepared and has covered all the areas that need improvements in this country. 

"The notice also makes it sound like we are supporting only the government and H.R.P.P., and is calling out to F.A.S.T. to refrain from using the name of Saleaula during their roadshow. 

"We didn't discuss anything like that. We have nothing against La'auli and his party, we also have a candidate running under the F.A.S.T. banner in the upcoming election, and we have accepted his wish to run and he has our support."

When queried about the signatures of nine chiefs and orators of Saleaula at the end of the public notice, another high chief, Levaopolo Voli said they were unaware of such a thing. 

"The nine of us who are listed under the notice were present during the meeting. But we were not informed of the wording of the notice and no one notified us about the public notice. 

"We are planning to have a meeting this week to discuss the issue and to form up the notice. The main reason why we wanted to make a public notice was because of the comments and claims made by Lavea from Safotu, belittling the village and the matai of Saleaula. 

"But it was not aimed at F.A.S.T. and their manifesto."

The notice also sent a threat out to all Saleaula villagers at home and abroad to stop reacting to the election campaign, warning them to refrain from sharing their political views online, shaming the name of the village. 

It also included that their families in Savai'i will bear the consequences of their actions, should they continue to tarnish the good name of the village via comments they make online. 

This, according to Alofipo and Levaopolo, was something they felt should be done "to maintain the peace" within the village. 

"The reason why we decided to issue a warning to all the Saleaula living abroad was that we did not want them to add on to what's already happening. 

"We want to keep the peace and to lessen all the criticism made towards the village and the people living in the village. Children are not in charge of the village and we want to maintain the peace. 

"We fully understand the situation and we know why Saleaula's seat was taken away," Alofipo added. 

"It's not like we did not do anything to try and save our seat. We met with the Prime Minister and the Government a few times last year, and they explained the reason behind the changes. 

"So we are aware that these are only temporary, that there will come a time when we gain our seat back. So we are praying and hoping for that day to come." 

According to Levaopolo and Alofipo, the village will convene in a meeting this week and are seeking to find the person who wrote the notice. 

"It's not nice that they have aired the notice without our consent. 

"We were not officially informed that the notice has been given to different media outlets and we did not see or hear of the wording of the notice.  

"So we will find out who wrote the notice and those behind it."

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