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Accountability critical as nation grapples with aftermath of the measles epidemic

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Government’s reluctance to initiate a Commission of Inquiry into the measles crisis is telling.It speaks volumes about the state of Samoa as a nation today. It is also symptomatic of a one-party state.In any normal democracy hit by a crisis of this magnitude where lives are lost, a Commission of Inquiry naturally follows. It’s part of good governance; it’s about accountability and transparency.In Samoa today, the facts speak for themselves. Eighty-three people – the majority being innocent children who had no control over the virus - died.Thousands of Samoans in this country and abroad are in mourning. Families have been torn apart, relationships severed forever. Parents are without children; brothers and sisters have lost beloved siblings. In some cases, children are without parents and so forth.But the devastating impact of the measles epidemic does not end there. Read the pages of your newspaper over the past few days and you will find that education has been affected in a major way.Coupled with the Government’s decision to devote so much time, money and energy to the Pacific Games last year, the measles compounded problems so that the exam results for many students are disappointing. In some cases woeful.The epidemic and the fatalities that followed cannot be ignored. The fatalities were mainly children who are the future of Samoa, the young generation of this country, whose educational prospects have been negatively impacted. You cannot put a value on that and nothing can bring back the time.Where we can estimate a value, the tourism industry is more than $10 million in the red. We did not make up that figure, it came from the Samoa Tourism Authority, the government body responsible for driving the tourism industry, which is, suppose to be the mainstay of the economy.The worst part is that we know these deaths and the adverse impact it has brought, could have been prevented, had the Government paid attention and acted on the alarm bells that had been rung months before the tragedy.International agencies including the World Health Organisation, warned Samoa about its low immunisation rates well in advance. These warnings were issued at meetings attended by Government officials, who are paid ridiculous high salaries to protect the interests of Samoa – let alone lives.The measles epidemic in New Zealand was another major warning, given the frequency of travel between the two countries. That too was not taken seriously.Even when measles cases started surfacing in Samoa, the local authorities still did their best to downplay them. Some people at the Ministry of Health, who thought they were powerful, did the best they could to insult reporters from this newspaper – who insisted on questioning the response, given the severity of the situation then.And how can we forget? While the epidemic escalated, the Minister of Health was not in the country. She was instead attending a women's empowerment conference somewhere in Australia. When her absence was questioned, her response was incredibly outrageous; it’s not even worth repeating here.Other senior health officials were away in Africa, somewhere. Really?We can go on and on but you get our drift. Suffice to say, if all the reasons above are not sufficient enough to warrant a Commission of Inquiry, we don’t know what will.In Parliament on Tuesday, that lone opposition Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Va’ai, revisited the issue. He debunked the Government’s myth that parents are to blame for the deaths. “Why is the Government blaming the parents now? Everything starts from here,” Olo asked. Prime Minister Tuilaepa obviously was not impressed. “Can I ask the member; is it your wish that the Police go out and lock up all the parents who did not want to vaccinate their children?”“Mr. Speaker,” Olo responded, “why should the Police go out? “Who stopped the vaccination programme that prevented the children from being vaccinated? It’s you [Prime Minister Tuilaepa]. The vaccination programme lapsed for a whole year, that’s why these children died. That’s what I’m trying to get at.”When the Prime Minister insisted that “kids have died because the parents did not want them to get vaccination” Olo responded: “Mr. Speaker, it’s not that the parents did not want to take their kids to get vaccinated. The Government stopped the vaccination programme. That’s the truth.”Olo’s response is something we should all think about very carefully today.At the end of the day, this country deserves nothing but the truth, about what happened and how this Government failed them. Anywhere else in a normal democracy, an investigation would already be underway and heads would roll.And yet here we are in Samoa where the Government continues to make excuses after excuses, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to avoid responsibility, and being transparent and accountable. What are they afraid of? And what does this say about the kind of democracy we have in Samoa?Don’t rush over that.Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!                

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Public servants, road openings and waste of public monies

There is a very fine line between spending taxpayers’ monies to acknowledge and appreciate the work of the public service and abuse of public resources. That much is undeniable.The thought comes to mind after reading a story titled “Public Service Day a $17,000 waste” published in the Samoa Observer earlier this week. But hold that thought for now folks.Firstly, let’s briefly look at what the Public Service Day is and what it is designed to do. Those in the know would remember that it is usually a day off for all public servants to celebrate and reflect on their work.The day starts with a big colourful parade down Beach Road, followed by a speech from the Prime Minister and the annual Public Service Awards, recognising excellence in the sector.All things considered, there is a time for everything. There is a time and day when appropriate acknowledgement must be made to appreciate good honest hard work. And it’s important to acknowledge the role public servants play in the development of Samoa.At the government level, public servants at the coalface of policy development and service delivery. While politicians take the attention, many of them are unsung heroes; their roles going unnoticed and unappreciated.And when things don’t go well, they cop a lot of flak from members of the public. The fact of life is that as public servants, they will always be on the firing line when it comes to the negative backlash – and in some cases deservedly so.Often lost in the criticisms though is the fact that there are also a lot of great things done by certain individuals in the public service who deserve credit and recognition.But should such acknowledgement cost taxpayers more monies? We ask this knowing that the public service is already a very expensive exercise in Samoa, costing the country millions and millions of tala.Now let’s be honest here. Samoa already has one of the highest paid public services in the Pacific – given our population and the size of the economy.  On top of salaries, when we sit down to account for the monies that are allocated for perks, benefits, travel, different allowances, vehicles and much more, we will find that this is perhaps one of the most expensive governments to run.The private sector can hardly compete with these sorts of salaries and offers.Which brings us back to the story titled “Public Service Day a $17,000 waste” which was based on a report by the Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee.In dissecting the Public Service Commission's $4.83 million budget allocation, the Committee drilled holes on the idea of spending more taxpayers’ monies on a public service day, simply calling it a waste of money. “The Committee questions the importance of having a Public Service Day for the Government [where] $17,000 is allocated,” the Committee’s report reads. “It is [a] waste of time when there is work to be done, as service to the country.”The Parliamentary Committee couldn’t have said it better, we think. While $17,000 might not seem like much, the cost of a day of celebration for the public service could easily run into a hundred thousand tala when we take into account that everyone is still being paid their full salaries and all the other perks.Besides, it’s not up to the public service to pat themselves on the back at the expense of the very people they exist to serve. Keep in mind that many of these public servants come up with all sorts of excuses to reward themselves.  How many times have we seen different government ministries give themselves half a day off for all sorts of reasons – including some of the stupidest things on the face of the earth?Why must taxpayers pay public servants when they take time off for a health sports day for example? Why can’t they do it on Saturday when it’s their day off? But that’s just one example of the typical abuse we have become accustomed to seeing in Samoa.When the Parliamentary Committee raised the matter, the Public Service Commission in response offered an alternative to the Public Service Day. They revealed that they are considering going out into the villages to engage with members of the public to inform them firsthand about the nature of public service.But the Finance and Expenditure Committee was not convinced. So much so they booted the idea to touch. “If that is the case, villages will be burdened,” the Committee responded.We couldn’t agree more. Can you imagine the burden on the villages in terms of preparing food, gifts, sua and everything else that comes with hosting visiting delegations from the Government?Speaking of that, a story in yesterday’s Samoa Observer titled “P.M. on Savai’i road trip, opens seven new roads” just couldn’t be ignored. Judging from the photos of the two-day road opening junket, Prime Minister Tuilaepa was accompanied by Cabinet Ministers and a host of senior Government officials.Can you imagine how expensive such an exercise would be? Vehicles, accommodation, allowances and so forth?  On the other hand, think about the pressure the Samoan culture would have placed on all those villages in hosting the road opening show? Some of those people are among the poorest in Samoa today; they do not need another burden.Come to think of it, maybe for this Government, they have become so used to doing this they must believe it is their divine duty to do whatever they want with taxpayers monies.No wonder they even needed to host a prayer service and have a few drinks to close an airport? Seriously? When will such glorious waste of time and money end?Have a safe Sunday Samoa, God bless! 

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Arresting the brain drain of healthcare workers

Samoa and other Pacific island nations have never had it easy over the years when it came to retaining the best of locally-trained medical professionals.Over the years, the country has seen more of its doctors and nurses move to greener pastures abroad, to add to the brain drain curse that continues to affect national health systems throughout the region.Tragically, it had to take a measles epidemic and the lives of 83 people comprising mainly of children, to realise that the shortage in health professionals in Samoa is a crisis and warrants immediate intervention.Now, at this post-measles juncture, we can all agree that our hardworking medical professionals wouldn't have been able to rein in the virus without the support of colleagues from abroad. The fact of the matter is our hard working local nurses and doctors need long-term reinforcement.The high death toll and infection rate, which currently stands at 5,707 according to the Ministry of Health, justifies the need for an increase in Government investment in medical training, the recruitment of more personnel, and better remuneration as part of a long-term strategy.The Samoa Nurses' Association President, Solialofi Papali'i, gave us a glimpse of the staffing crisis facing the health sector when she discussed the challenges that the nursing profession has faced.The good news is the nursing profession is attracting a lot more applicants today compared to 40 years ago, according to Ms Papali'i."Remember in the 1970s the intakes would only be about seven or eight students brought in, because it is hard work and it's not something everyone likes," she said reports the Samoa Observer. "These days, because of the marketing of the nursing career, many more have been able to enter into nursing school over the years."But it is the retention of the best talent in Samoa – to ensure that they continue to work in their home country and save lives – that is proving difficult. Most times the medical professional, either a doctor or a nurse, were recipients of Samoa Government and or donor support in terms of their upskilling. And a lot of them eventually leave the country, often in search of higher salaries, better working conditions and clear career pathways.A number of studies have been done on the issue over the years. In July last year, three months before the declaration of the measles epidemic in Samoa, an opinion piece published by the Australian National University warned the Australian government of the long-term impact of its Pacific Step Up Policy.The paper’s author, Dr Matthew Bray, was concerned that the Australian government’s new foreign policy priority could lead to the migration of more Pacific island healthcare workers to Australia. Dr Bray quoted statistics released in a 2008 study titled “Australia and New Zealand’s contribution to Pacific Island health worker brain drain” by University of Sydney academic, Professor Joel Negin.The data highlighted in the study, which was sourced from the 2006 Census, showed how 455 Pacific-born doctors and 1158 Pacific-born nurses and midwives were working in Australia at that time. And their numbers increased to 607 (doctors) and 2954 (nurses) in the 2016 Census a decade later.According to statistics from the same report, in 2006 there were 42 Samoan-born doctors and 469 Samoan-born nurses working in Australia and New Zealand at that time. But the doctor shortage crisis is not a new issue facing the health sector in Samoa.In May last year, the Associate Minister of Health, Tofa Li’o Foleni, announced that he and Health Minister Faimalotoa Kika Stowers have a solution to the country’s doctor shortage.“The shortage of doctors is not a new issue and so our plan together with the Health Minister is to address the shortage of doctors by focusing on the local students studying medicine," he said. “We are targeting the development of these young students who aim to become future doctors to address the numbers of doctors needed."Three months later the Oceania University of Medicine (O.U.M.) Vice Chancellor, Toleafoa Dr Viali Lameko, revealed that Samoa needed 40 new doctors within five years.He said this when announcing that his University will continue to offer five-year programme scholarships to Samoan citizens to study medicine.We appreciate the initiative by the O.U.M. to step forward to resolve what has been a longstanding issue, which continues to have an impact on our health landscape.But it is time for the Government to walk the talk when it comes to making long-term investment in Samoa’s health sector, which should arrest the increasing number of our top healthcare workers leaving our shores to work abroad, amongst other related issues. A study should be commissioned to identify the factors that are leading to the exodus of Samoan healthcare workers, and what should be done to keep them at home to commit to achieving higher quality health outcomes for our people. The measles epidemic and the death toll is the justification for the conversation to be taken beyond public announcements on podiums, and into Ministry meetings and ultimately Cabinet for decisions to be made.Have a lovely Monday Samoa and God bless.

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Tourism vulnerabilities, measles and the need for solid export strategy

The plight of the tourism industry in the aftermath of the measles crisis shows just how vulnerable Samoa is. It’s not the first time this nation has taken a massive hit in terms of tourism revenues and it will certainly not be the last.But the latest setback is the last thing the tourism industry needed and we do get a sense that the price tag this time around is way too expensive and it will take some time to recover.The historic struggles of Samoa’s tourism industry are well known. With Samoa relatively difficult to access compared to some of the most preferred destinations in the Pacific like Fiji, Tahiti and the Cook Islands, tourist numbers during the past few years have been hard to come by.But things were slowly taking a turn for the better. If the numbers provided by the Government were accurate, things were looking up until the measles epidemic struck with such devastating effect.Now the story of the measles in Samoa is well known and has been well told.With lives at stake, why should we care about tourism?That is a fair and a legitimate point.But we should care about the developments in the tourism industry given its importance to this country’s economy.For a long time now, the Government through Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has repeatedly said tourism is the “mainstay” of the economy. It means that in terms of economic developments, lives do depend on it. Which is why the revelation by the Samoa Tourism Authority (S.T.A.) that the measles epidemic had cost tourism an estimated $10 million in revenue with losses still being counted, should alarm us all. That is a lot of bread and butter for Samoans.According to the S.T.A. Chief Executive Officer, Fa’amatuainu Lenata’i Suifua, the losses have been attributed to cancelled bookings and cruise ships not being allowed to dock. This has had a flow-on effect of effect on restaurants, attractions, markets and transport and all spheres of life in Samoa. “The impact on the tourism industry is massive,” Fa’amatuainu said. “The losses not limited to hotels as impact is felt throughout the whole industry namely rental cars, taxis; restaurants, attraction sites and handicrafts and elei operators."The good news is that the man entrusted with steering Samoa tourism’s ship remains fairly optimistic."We are a resilient bunch, having faced natural disasters before,” he said. “Our focus now is just on rebuilding our brand and image for our potential visitors to help our industry recover [while remaining] mindful of the human loss [caused by measles]. “Although this is a setback, what we should focus on [are] actions to boost our campaign to attract tourists to Samoa.“At this moment the S.T.A. is enhancing [its] marketing strategy with overseas flight centres, [increasing] our presence on social media [...and assuring] the world that Samoa is a safe destination as measles has subsided".Well that is wonderful to hear. The measles crisis was unfortunate but three weeks into the new year, everyone needs to be putting their best foot forward to ensure we are back in business and enticing those tourists to visit beautiful Samoa. The truth is that in terms of the cost to the economy and people, the measles toll cannot be measured.At the start of 2020, this country has got its work cut out. The Government needs to be creative and proactive in terms of finding ways to fill the void, not just in terms of the tourism industry but also in every area of life that was affected by the measles crisis.It’s also perhaps an opportune time to revisit the Government’s plan to pin all its hopes on tourism as a sector. Samoa’s vulnerability to natural disasters, including epidemics like the measles clearly expose the flaws in such a plan.If our humble opinion is sought, we believe the solution goes back to what we’ve been saying that the Government must invest money and encourage people to develop farming and agriculture. With all that fertile soil in Samoa, imagine if there were millions of tala available to local farmers so they can fund different projects to utilise their land?The Government should then invest in setting up factories where our wildly grown breadfruits, mangoes, papayas, lemon and so forth are canned and exported.That way employment is created, people have money in their pockets and the economy is stimulated. Most importantly, there is a solid base for exports earning us much-needed revenue, instead of relying on something that is extremely vulnerable. What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!

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Street Talk

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Public support ban of children from church services

Alofa Isaia, 25, AfegaI think there should be a ban on young children from attending church services as they are the ones most vulnerable to measles. Keeping them at home is the best option in order to lessen the risks of spreading the virus. If the children are allowed in church this will make the measles spread to other children and make them sick. For us adults we can handle the pain but the children cannot and this is why I totally support the ban on children from church services.Fotu Faafetai, 37, SavaiiI totally support the ban on children from church services to prevent the measles from spreading from one child to another. Measles can spread fast and affect everyone and the children are the most vulnerable. Church service is a part of our everyday life but the health of our children is more important to us. I have children as well and I know how painful it will be if my child got the measles and loses his or her life.Aisepka Lokeni, 57, Nu’uWe should listen to the advice from the church ministers to ban children from attending church services, as the risk of them spreading the measles to other kids is high. The Bible says we have to obey our leaders, and that is why we should listen to our leaders and save our children and vulnerable people from dying. I totally support the ban to prevent measles from spreading even faster.John Ale, 50, Vaitele FouI support the ban on children from attending church service because this will prevent measles from getting spread to other children, and getting the other children infected. We all want to go to church, but going to church service with children who have measles – they will only spread it and this will affect other children, and the disease will spread.Fotulafai Reupena, 61, Vaitele FouI take off my hat to the government for the decision to ban children from attending church services and public areas due to the measles outbreak. We should protect them from the virus. I read media reports of many children losing their lives from measles, if this fatalities continue there could be no more young generation for Samoa. We have to protect our own children, and the children are the future of our country. Faititili Tipasa, 40, AfegaI totally support the ban on children from church because I know that the children are the ones most affected by the measles. I prefer children not attend any church service as they can be easily affected if they still go and it will lead to more infections. Ensuring the children stay home will prevent measles from spreading, and protect other children infection. 

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"Measles infection rate and fatalities should determine lifting of state of emergency"

Faavae Leausa, 64, MalieI think the lifting of the state of emergency depends on the number of measles cases and fatalities. If the death toll has not moved then it should be lifted but if fatalities continue to increase then the state of emergency must continue. We do not want to rush things – we must prioritise the safety of all Samoan people first before we act. Tulasenuu Misa Umutaua, 57, MalieThe state of emergency that was declared by the Samoa government is a very smart move. For me, the safety of our people is very important and should be a priority. The state of emergency should continue until the measles epidemic is declared by the health officials to be over.Filipo Toma, 40, SaleimoaIt is a very good decision by the Samoa government to declare the state of emergency. The measles epidemic is still affecting our children and it is a must for everyone to keep them safe and care for them. The state of emergency should not be lifted yet if the number of measles cases are increasing. Siulepa Salapo, 25, LauliiThe decision on whether the state of emergency should be lifted should ultimately depend on how many measles infection cases have been recorded and the number of people still suffering from the virus. If there is confirmation measles cases are still increasing then the state of emergency should continue.Pesi Samuelu, 41, Nuu-FouI heard that the death toll is still at 70 and if it is like this for the whole week and no more lives are claimed by measles than the state of emergency should be lifted so life can continue as usual. But if there are still people dying from the virus then the state of emergency should continue.

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Public welcome minimum wage increase

Tuau Joe, 46, AleipataFor me I feel great that the government has finally increased the labour rate from $2.30 per hour to $3.00 per hour, which will help the employee to support his or her family. Increasing the minimum wages is something the government should have done because the $2.30 per hour rate is not enough to feed the family and provide. I hope the pay rise should not lead to an increase in the price of goods, because that will affect the public.Mary Solofue, 45, AufaFor me the government should raised the minimum wage for the employees a long time ago, like the hotels their minimum wage is $2.50 per hour. Now they've increased the minimum wage rate is a great idea, right now a $ 100 is like a $2.00 you can only buy two items and it's used. The minimum wage rate of $3.00 tala per hour will give some breathing space to the employees to help his or her family, but I hope they will increase it further. Uliao Saili, 45, Lefaga (Matautu )I take my hat off to the government for being concerned for the people of Samoa who are working and increasing their pay rate to $3.00 per hour. I know that Samoa has been fighting with the $2.30 rate an hour for a long time, and now finally there is a rise in the rate. This increase will help the workers to have more money to help out their families and spend more on their children.Julie Fea, 23, FagaloaI feel happy that the minimum wage rate has been increased and the workers can now earn more. It's always a great concern for me and now for the government to raise the minimum wage because people have been working for years at the $2.30 tala per hour rate. The costs of goods and services in our country is so expensive so I hope that in the near future the minimum wage rate will increase again.Selave Sione, 40, FalealiliI know it's not much of an increase in the minimum wage rate but at least there is something extra. I thank the government for increasing the rate for minimum wages, because most of the employees were working for $2.30 per hour. I know they will be happy they have a rise as it means they can earn more than before. Also it is now worth working eight hours. But I know $3.00 tala an hour is still not enough to support families as the cost of living in our country is very expensive.Heni Malu, 35, Falealili( Male Malu)It is great that the minimum wage rate has been increased for employees because now they can have more income to assist their families. It has been a long time coming, we have waited for the wages to rise. But I hope that it can be increased again to say $3.50 or $4.00 tala per hour in the near future, because we all know that life now in our country is very expensive.

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Public say 2019 measles more fatal unlike before

Falevalu Seiuli, 64, LauliiIn my own opinion the measles before was not too bad. Back then I was told there weren't too many people who were affected by measles, and when they did have it, it would go away quickly with a sea bath or other remedies. Now there just seems to be a lot of death, especially for the children. Many had barely even heard of the disease until it broke out, and I never experienced it with my own child. But I want to advise other parents out there to look after their children and to prevent this happening again, as it is now law to vaccinate your children.Senitima Manulua, 46, MalaemaluMeasles back then was just the rash on your body, and then it could be treated and be back to normal at home. We did not worry if you had it. Now, it's very different to see the loss of life from the epidemic. I only know of back then because I was told about it from other members of my village, who say that while there were vaccinations, there were no deaths. It's shocking and sad to see such a large loss of life today, especially as they are children. Hopefully this does not happen again.Faavae Kiribatu, 70, SataloSure the most notable difference is that there are a lot of people dying. There are now over 70 lives lost from measles, but whatever we can do to try and stop it hurting more people is helpful in my eyes. There are definitely more people affected by it now than in the past. Now, we can only just pray to get blessings from God in order to heal them. Now that there is a law to vaccinate, it suits our country's need to protect our children.Fotuai Tavita Leilua, 54, MalaemaluBack then, it was easier to deal with. The sickness would leave the body after and it never killed anybody. We would use traditional methods and take them to the sea, and it would stop. Currently I'm unsure as to what kind of strand of measles this one is, as many children and babies have lost their lives. I think that with this new vaccination law, it will stop negligent parents from not getting the proper treatment for their children before it's too late.Tupai Pio, 67, FaleulaI remember that back then measles didn't cause as much trouble as this one and definitely had little effect on the Samoan people when I was growing up. Back then it did affect mostly children but it would run its course, and then it was over. I look at this disease and I thought it would have been cured by now but it only got stronger. That's as much as I can remember from that time.

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Letter to Editor

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China and developments at Mulifanua

Kevin Hart’s letter of 03 September complained about the Chinese being a likely buyer of Government’s shareholding in the Sheraton Samoa Resort at Mulifanua. Which raises the question; what is wrong with Chinese investors getting involved in tourism development in Samoa anyway especially when there isn’t much interest from elsewhere? Virtually every other country in the Pacific and the world including the US and Australia, China’s foremost critics have been enjoying the benefits of Chinese trade, investment, and tourism. So why not Samoa?Whether people like it or not, China will be a major player in the region, and it will only get worse with time for those who wish it otherwise. And in any case, one can’t do business with China as China’s critics do, and then seek to deny the Pacific Islands the same privilege by engaging in fearmongering about China’s intentions.  Samoa’s deputy prime minister called this bahaviour recently, patronizing and offensive. It is also dishonest. One would have thought that with colonialism still fresh in people’s minds, China’s detractors might have tried some more subtle way to make their case about China being a threat to Island nations. After all, these are nations that have only recently won back their own sovereignty from countries that are accusing China, a victim of colonialism itself, of malevolent intent in the Pacific.  Samoa’s prime minister made the point at the Pacific Island Forum that China is not an enemy of Samoa, which adheres to a “friend to all and enemy to none” approach to old and new comers alike to the region. The Pacific islands have legitimate economic needs and environmental interests that the former colonial powers in the Pacific have been unable to meet or in some cases totally ignored. Over the years, the Pacific Island nations have even been blamed for supposedly lagging in economic growth behind other parts of the world that receive similar levels of aid. But more recent work on the subject has confirmed what the Pacific Islands have known all along. And that is when you are small, highly fragmented and horribly isolated, your costs of attempting any form of economic activity are always going to be high no matter what you do.  China’s willingness and ability to help bridge this aid gap is welcomed therefore. It also helps that China has a different approach in its relations with the tiny and insignificant Pacific Island states and peoples. And it happens it’s an approach that the Pacific peoples themselves understand all too well and appreciate. Its an approach that recognizes the inherent dignity of peoples irrespective of colour, money and level of development. The result is that in spite of the fear mongering about China’s supposedly hidden agenda even in the face of evidence to the contrary, the Pacific Islands have seen no reason to believe this crude and offensive propaganda.  There appears to have been a notable increase lately in the number of visits by navy vessels and personnel from the US and Australia doing the usual public relations soft sell with various groups including school children. The visit on board these war machines and the helicopter rides for the children will have been the thrill of a lifetime for many. One suspects that we will be seeing more of these as the West sets out to contain the rise of Chinese influence in the region. The visits bring back to mind the colonial days of gun boat diplomacy in the Pacific when control of native populations was exercised mainly through the firepower of visiting warships when turned on native communities that failed to toe the line   Samoa’s prime minister is reported to have said recently in relation to the stepped-up competition that Samoa’s main interest and focus of diplomacy is to raise standards of living and provide for its people’s needs. In the circumstances, public relations and making friends with young people will only go so far in winning influence especially in the face of China’s hard cash. Airy catch phrases such as Step Up, (Australia), Pacific Uplift, (UK), something about Family? (US), can easily backfire. A meeting between Chinese leaders and Pacific Island leaders being hosted by Samoa in October this year should be quite an event especially at this time. It will most likely see among other things the unveiling of some new aid and trade initiative by China.   And as for Chinese interests possibly helping to bring more air services to Samoa, that too would be a welcome relief from the monopolistic practices of Air New Zealand, Virgin Airways and Fiji Airways, the three carriers that operate services in Samoa today. After being badly burnt in yet another one-sided partnership with an Australian carrier, the Samoan government did the right thing for Samoa in starting up Samoa Airways in spite of the risks and poor timing. When Polynesian Airlines started international services to New Zealand in the late 1970s, it did so mainly on the strength of Samoa’s own ethnic traffic between the two countries. The airline did well even then, until gross mismanagement grounded it with heavy losses. In spite of its inauspicious beginnings, Samoa Airways if properly managed and run, (by professionals preferably), has every chance of being the catalyst for Samoa to have the airline services it so badly needs. But it is helpful as government embarks on this to be reminded that we have been down this very road before. The lessons of history are there and must be learnt and heeded, if their repetition is to be avoided. Incidentally, as for a possible flooding of the To-Sua with tourists from China if direct charter flights were to start between China and Samoa, I have a suggestion. Make the climb down to the water even more challenging than it is now. That should encourage only the young and the brave to take the plunge. Afamasaga F ToleafoaLetava

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Sisters provide update on Nathan Keil

Most people in Samoa know who Nathan Keil is - or at least recognize him. He has grown up in the public eye and has so many friends. It has been about a year since our father, Hans Joachim “Joe” Keil passed away, and we wanted to give you all an update on Nathan and thank all those who reach out to him and help ease the pain that he still feels.Nathan's best friend was his Dad. They did so much together.They often worked together, ate together, went to many functions together and traveled together. They had such a great relationship: one that any father and son team would be envious of.They would have breakfast in the morning before work and dinner late in the evening.  They would walk to the store every morning together to buy the Samoa Observer before breakfast.  Then head out to work after breakfast. Usually around lunch time Dad would take Nathan home and after lunch Nathan would stay home and Dad would go back to work.In the evenings, Nathan would wait to have dinner with his Dad - who sometimes got home late because of meetings - but Nathan would still wait and they would eat together.  Sometimes our mother would eat meals with them. But sometimes she wouldn't because she would eat and then go check on her mother.Now our mother makes sure she eats with Nathan unless he is off having dinner with an uncle, aunt or cousins.  Nathan still talks to our father every day.  He says hello to our father's pictures in the living room and calls out greetings to him whenever he passes the gravesite just down the road.  At nights, Nathan talks to our Dad in the moon.  He says he can see our Dad smiling down from the moon. He tells our Dad how much he loves him and misses him every day.  He smiles, he laughs, he cries.  And we all cry with him - because although we all miss our father as well, and are still heartbroken that he is gone  - Nathan feels it 10 times more - because none of us were best friends with our father the way Nathan was.So to everyone who has helped ease this transition for Nathan - thank you!Thank you to Corey, Niko, Aotearoa and Nathan’s friends at TV3 for continuing to make Nathan feel like he is The Boss at TV3. Because that is what our father always let Nathan believe.Thank you to Tasha and Francis for giving him a job assembling boxes at the cake shop.  He is such a dedicated worker.Thank you to uncles, aunts and cousins who include Nathan in their family celebrations and gatherings.  Thank you to those who pick him up and take him to the movies, to church, to the gym or other places.Thank you to those who text him or call him because it makes him feel so special.And thank you especially to our mother Celine for filling the void as best as you can.  For although you and Nathan are close - Dad was Nathan's best buddy.God bless!Nathan’s sisters,Violette, Bella and Katrina

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We need to urgently review entire vaccination programme in Samoa

I read James Robertson’s article titled “Government needs to dispense hard truths to cure vaccine mistrust”with interest and also great concern.It is actually bordering on unscientific scare mongering. Just a few corrections for you. Firstly there were THREE (3) deaths last year on administration of MMR vaccine. Two from malpractice and one caused by a hyperactive immune response to the MMR vaccine itself. The first death we only became aware of because the parents came forward due to the deaths later on in the year in Safotu. How many more parents are not coming forward? How many more deaths are we experiencing that we are totally unaware of?This clearly demolishes your quote from the honourable judge supporting that vaccines are safe.You say that the country is in dire danger because of the recent significant fall in vaccines with the assumption that increased vaccination will protect against the disease. So let us put this to the test with the little data that we actually have on vaccination in Samoa and how Samoa has fared according to our reports submitted to WHO. Do you know that when we had our highest vaccination rates we had our highest rates of measles? That throws a bit of a spanner in the works doesn't it.You are likely unaware but in the Disney land outbreak in 2015, 38% of the people who got measles were FULLY VACCINATED. That is a bit of a worry isn't it? https://jcm.asm.org/content/55/3/735?fbclid=IwAR3a6XBFsukEBAbHNvS3PTN98f_YOeBGpGcPDIVhFhKznl6IPlHcO98bsF8Vaccinologists promised us that the following would happen:Life long immunity from the vaccine. Clearly has not happened as per Disney Land outbreakWould eliminate serious complications and mortality from measles. Has not happened as in the death last year that we know of and how many more???Eradication of the disease (was forecast by Merck to be 1967) - clearly has not happened.Will not shed -New York, primary source of infection? 2 dose vaccinated individual - vaccine is causing outbreaks: https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/58/9/1205/2895266You mention Britain with 95% vaccination rate? Well they are having outbreaks. Merck promised that at 55% immunization rate they would replicate herd immunity and prevent outbreaks. Sounds like they were a bit arrogant don't you think and completely underestimated and misunderstood how the immune system and disease works.Just to emphasis how little you actually know about MMR and how it is working - there are 99% vaccinated populations that are still experiencing outbreaks. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930734/Something your are also clearly unaware of - neutralizing antibody titers (the stuff in your blood that tells you you are immune to a virus) are no longer at protective levels in older populations DUE TO VACCINATIONS. What does this actually mean?It means that mothers cannot pass on CRITICAL PASSIVE IMMUNITY TO NEONATES through the placenta pre birth and breast milk. You therefore have a two fold horror show occurring. Your very young children and your older population are becoming at risk of getting measles. Both ages ranges where the disease is MUCH MORE DANGEROUS.The science is CLEARLY showing that the vaccine is failing and is creating a true horror show that we are just now starting to experience and is evidenced by the increasing numbers of outbreaks in fully vaccinated individuals and highly vaccinated populations.So what do we do in a situation where a vaccine is not only dangerous in itself, but is ineffective and making things worse?Stop the programme IMMEDIATELY. Ensure we have protocols in place to tackle measles such as the vitamin A protocol that WHO recommend and the vitamin C protocol the Dr. Archie Kalekerinos implimented in Northern Australia with resounding success.This is how we protect Samoa and we urgently need to review the entire vaccine program in Samoa to ensure we are not making a bad situation worse.Edwin Tamasese

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A nation coming apart at the seams

I write in relation to some sad and tragic incidents with these poor little souls being abandoned without any regard to the almighty God who created these little lives, who by the way has been and still is watching and seeing whoever did these horrendous acts.You maybe able to hide it from the human eyes...but e ati le silafaga ale Atua ia te oe. Talofae ia te oe male tulaga lena ua e iai ile taimi nei. Ailoga e mafai na e moe, e le leai se filemu i lou mafaufau. E o'o lava ina e savali mae e fasa ile auala. Talofa e, e Alofa le Atua i tagata uma.This is the even more tragic side of this kind of act which should have been the first and foremost thing to look at if we as a nation are to find solutions.We need to fix the mentality that creates the situation, resulting in unwanted babies.Malo lava i le Samoa Family Health Association. O lo'o fai pea a latou galuega ile fa'ailoa o auala ese'ese e puipuia ai le fai ose pepe i taimi le talafeagai, so they are pushing their message of family planning etc.But they need to go out even further into the community.I thought there was a great suggestion by Rev. Aisoli Iuli about the baby Hatch. Yes its an overseas thing but if it saves one precious life, why not? These work very well overseas by the way.The message from the Samoa Victims Support Group is loud and clear. Malo Siliniu Lina Chang.If you're a young girl or any woman who finds themselves in this unfortunate situation as a result of poor decisions or whatever circumstance, please visit the SVSG and talk to them if you can’t talk to your family. There is help available.  There is a reason why the Maternity Wing was created at the Samoa Victim Support Group for this very purpose.There are not questions, no judgment. Just love and help for you.They can house you until the birth of the baby and either you take baby home or lots of folks are listed for adoption. Some one is ready to take baby home, not throw them away like this.Lastly, I believe we can resolve this issue with God as our Support and Leader.The government schools are doing some Sex Education but that is still not enough.It’s ok for the young people attending school but what about the young woman or girl out in the village or at home not going to school anymore and she finds herself pregnant? Tulou lo’u gutu male afi, o i tonu lava e pa'u ile faletua ole Ekalesia, aua e fai a tatou mafutaga a Tina i aulotu uma.This is a good way to bring the moms and young daughters of your congregations, and talk about this topic.Reassure them if it does happen because we are still in and of the world, there is always someone to talk to. Likewise the Fathers and young sons and men...THE BIBLE DOES SAY, YOUR BODY IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD.That’s my two cents piece. Collectively with Love and understanding instead of anger and condemnation. Samoa we can help each other. God bless.Manuia le Aso. Ma lo'u fa'aaloalo,Lupe-Lu Lohmann

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