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The virtues of boring Government

The very idea of a new Government promises a world of infinite possibilities.Many Samoans are excited about what the next five years may hold and understandably so. A break from more than two decades of uninterrupted rule alone is in and of itself a political development rich with possibilities for change. But achieving progress of any substance will require a new approach to governance from the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa Ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party,We should ask ourselves, is the political party that is barely one year old up to the task of governing Samoa? What will a F.A.S.T. Government look like?One noticeable feature of the F.A.S.T. party is the lack of political experience in its ranks. This is either a virtue or a liability depending on your view of the culture of Government in Samoa. With the notable  exception of its leader, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, who has been in Cabinet under two different Prime Ministers since the early ‘90s, there is not one F.A.S.T. legislator who has served a full term as a Cabinet Minister.That will matter, especially this week, as the Government seeks to stamp its authority on the public service and, as all new administrations must, build legitimacy in the eyes of the public. But we do not think that the relative lack of experience within F.A.S.T.’s ranks, after rule by a party in which power was centralised in the hands of one man , will be to its detriment.Fiame is, after all, ably supported by a cast of advisers who have intricate knowledge of how Samoa’s machinery of Government works and can be reoriented.While he never served out his full term in Cabinet as the Minister for Agriculture, the party’s deputy, La'auli Leuatea Schmidt, a former Speaker, is well known for his knowledge of Parliamentary procedure and political nous. He comes from political stock with deep family connections to the Human Rights Protection Party’s (H.R.P.P.) foundation and while inside that party's tent was regarded as a highly skilled tactician. Testament to his ability to read the public’s mood is the fact that it was his initiative to start F.A.S.T. that so improbably brought down the reign of the 22-year Government of Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi.Also on F.A.S.T. 's side are people, though not likely to be drafted into formal positions, are advisors such as Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, the nation’s most experienced Attorney-General and the architect of the initially-mocked legal tactic - or ‘tent event’ - that brought the party to power. So far the Government has wasted no time in stamping its authority on the governing process and with these and other advisors outside the party, it is unlikely to encounter difficulties in doing so.The public service, almost entirely unaccustomed to the process of a transition to a new Government, was put on notice the day after the Court of Appeal handed down its judgement in a meeting with Cabinet that set the process of transition immediately in motion. Chief among the short-term political priorities of the new administration will be securing funds for its operations and it has signalled its intent to secure one-quarter of normal expenditure under emergency provisions in the constitution as a stop-gap until it has had the chance to examine the state of the nation’s financial position - something that was previously kept closely held by the previous Government. There are other issues to be decided upon, such as how to treat the H.R.P.P. members who did not show up to what now has become the official swearing in of the new Government.But for her outspoken belief in the power of a strong opposition in creating good governance, we expect a means to be found to have the remaining 18 H.R.P.P. M.P.s - whose elections has not been declared void by post-election legal challenges - enter Parliament. But these are small time issues. What can we expect in the long-term from a F.A.S.T. Government?We expect dullness. And we mean it as a compliment; in fact, we hope for it. First and foremost achieving any of its policy priorities will require securing revenue from the nation’s battered economy that has contracted by 10 per cent for two years running. F.A.S.T.’s policy manifesto was, according to Fiame’s own admission, an approximately $1 billion document; or one roughly the value of the existing national budget, When pressed by this newspaper as to how she hoped to realise such a platform, she acknowledged some parts of the manifesto may need to be junked in favour of tax rises or expenditure freezes. Fiame also made a revealing comment about the amount of the budget lost to waste each and every year, The signs of the inefficient allocation of Government resources have been obvious to even the most casual observer of Samoan politics. Government contracts have been awarded without competitive tender processes. Contracts have been given to direct relatives of Cabinet Ministers. And increases in prices of originally cheap bids for tender once a project has been won by a company have all become routine. Fiame said the true extent of what is euphemistically referred to as the “leakage” of Government budgets is unknown and will not be uncovered until the F.A.S.T. administration has access to Government financial statements and time to analyse them.But credible sources within the Government have estimated that as much as one-third of the nation’s budget is lost through such misdirection.Identifying areas where the Government’s coffers are being wasted through inefficiencies or misdirection of funding and closing the loopholes that allow them to be so will be an essential first step.As part of the change of Government culture we expect Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa to be a far less dramatic presence on the national stage than her predecessor who often loomed large over national debate with bombastic statements. We hope Fiame is a Prime Minister with a lower profile altogether. Reports from inside the Cabinet of Tuilaepa suggested he asserted his authority on issues ranging from issues of minor procurement to senior bureaucratic appointmentsMicro-managing leaders who assert their power this way create a policy bottleneck or the political equivalent of a traffic jam that slows down the speed with which policy can be rolled out. We expect the new Government to restore a truly Cabinet-style form of administration in which Ministers are given the freedom to develop expertise in their portfolio and develop solutions to problems accordingly, rather than having power centralised in the hands of the Prime Minister. Such an approach makes for lesser theatrics but better Government. Looking at the big picture, our nation is not short of pressing problems, particularly in the key areas of health and education.We are persistently dogged by the issue of teacher quality and the knock-on effect of poor levels of student’s education.International research has found that Samoan students’ performance on basic measures of literacy and numeracy has plummeted. So too has the rate at which students are completing secondary school; in just two years, between 2016 and 2018, the proportion of students completing their secondary education fell from 71.4 per cent to 35.95 per cent,Attempts to raise teacher quality have not proven an effective remedy. A teacher upgrade programme has not improved educational outcomes while overburdening the National University of Samoa. Last year the number of students who passed their S.S.L.C. exams to gain entry into university fell by 8.5 percentage points when compared to 2017.Finally, the health of our nation must sit atop the Government’s agenda. We are a sick nation. Non-communicable diseases, as they are known in medical jargon, such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and even cancer have skyrocketed in Samoa over the past two decades. According to the World Health Organisation some 70-80 per cent of our adult population are afflicted with such conditions. Despite this, we have only two publicly available pathology services and four radiology services and access to essential services ranging from the country’s often broken M.R.I. scanner all the way down to the availability of simple health measures such as cholesterol checks are frequently interrupted by broken equipment or a lack of supply. The failings of the country;s vaccination programme has been well documented by this newspaper, as it dropped, inexplicably from 2014 to date. We saw the fatal effects of this in the 2019 measles crisis. Now we are seeing it again with the outbreak of a rotavirus pandemic. Several of our Pacific neighbours have been routinely vaccinating children against the often fatal disease for the better part of a decade; our first batch of vaccinations arrived last week.Systematically addressing these lapses is what the nation desperately needs. Some areas of obvious policy neglect will be easily remedied and improve lives; others are wicked problems with complicated causes whose cure is not obvious. But at this stage of the nation’s development the best way we can combat them is to return to the basics Government. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the incoming F.A.S.T. administration is the chance to make Government boring again. 

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Disregard for democracy runs deep

The take-no-prisoners world of American politics has a particularly insulting term for a national leader who, while still in office, already feels his legitimacy and power ebbing away from them.Whether by agreeing to step down, having lost an election, or being legally unable to contest another, the phenomenon of the “lame duck” President is not more complex than its name suggests.With an end-date stamped on their leadership, the extent of their ability to influence national politics is best compared to that of an injured water bird. They may still be able to attract attention by squawking but their power and legitimacy has largely ebbed away from their office and onto the next occupants.The concept is most famous in the United States of America. There, election cycles can drag on for so long that second-term Presidents often have the label forced upon them by the public and media only a couple of years after an election. We believe it is a sad reflection on the frenzied pace of modern politics that the promises of tomorrow can undercut potential reforms in the here and now. But that being said, a version of the lame duck Prime Ministeris a feature common to all successful democracies, albeit with less belittling names attached. The principle of a “caretaker Government'' reflects precisely these values. Ministers whose Governments were defeated in elections agree to keep the seat warm for their successors; responding, if needed, should emergencies arise but almost entirely refraining from making major policy decisions. The constitutions of most of the world’s most successful democracies do not spell out these restrictions on the extent to which caretaker Governments can take decisions for themselves. Instead they are upheld by convention and a reliance honour of the elected Members of Parliament who believe in the spirit of democracy.And that system works. From the moment an election is called and until a new Parliament is sworn-in, politicians, a class of people not known for being true to their word, almost always abide by caretaker conventions.Examples are not difficult to come by, even from some of the most intensely political and divisive figures of modern political history.When the 2008 Global Financial Crisis shook the world and threatened to upend global markets between Barack Obama’s election to the White House and his swearing in as President, sitting President George W. Bush realised that the country’s response was not his decision to make. He convened an open summit inviting his political opponents to develop a strategy for responding to the crisis until President Obama took office. But here in Samoa there is no such thing - literally and figuratively.It is difficult to reconcile news that the Court of Appeal ruled in Wednesday that what had been known as the “caretaker” Government and the man known as the “caretaker Prime Minister” were being unlawfully occupied. The court ruled the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party had been the rightful leaders of Samoa for the past two months.So what happens to the decision made over the past more than 50 days which seemingly have no legal grounding but have left taxpayers and citizens of Samoa carrying the consequences. How are we meant to take this with news that the Government is entering into major commitments such as the fact that the “caretaker” (read: former) Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Charles Lautafi Sio Purcell has been steering the arrival of a newly-leased Samoa Airways jet onto our shores in what was presumably a deal negotiated after the 9 April election.The deal did not come cheap either, with a five-year lease signed at a rate of USD$250,000 a month for the plane being leased.F.A.S.T. have committed to conducting a complete and transparent review of the airline’s finances once it takes office.Would it have signed off on such a lease at a time such as this, when global tourism is a tiny fraction of what it was? It seems unlikely. This is one of several commitments made that serve to remind us that the party that lost the 9 April election has been making decisions in our name for some time now when, the court has ruled, they lacked the authority to do so.The toothpaste is out of the tube now and it is going to be very difficult to put it back in if Samoa wants to preserve its reputation in the global business community. It provides just another small  example of the disregard for democracy that has permeated our politics for the last three months and reminds us who pays for it.

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Rotavirus confirms need for health review

It is worrying to hear of the emergence of another virus in Samoa, close to 20 months after a measles outbreak claimed the lives of 83 mostly children victims.And amidst a COVID-19 global pandemic, which has largely escaped our shores due to the closure of our international borders, but is showing no signs of abating globally, having already claimed over 4 million lives.The Sunday 25 July 2021 edition of the Sunday Samoan (Samoa on the edge of rotavirus epidemic among children) reported that local doctors have warned the country is on the precipice of a rotavirus epidemic, which is a diarrhoeal disease that mostly affects babies and young children.According to health officials at least 10 cases of the rotavirus were recorded at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital at Moto’otua, following laboratory testing coming back positive.Consequently, health staff are effecting a new policy of ensuring every patient who walks in with symptoms of the virus are immediately subject to laboratory tests. And the numbers based on hospital admissions don’t look good, according to officials as they show an increase in cases.Attempts by this newspaper to get comments from the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) Director-General Leausa Dr. Take Naseri since last Friday were not successful.Nevertheless the rotavirus is contagious and is usually spread through the fecal-oral route – that is, feces from an infected person is spread to another through digestion – and is usually the result of poor hand washing techniques, poor sanitation and or the consumption of contaminated food or water.Which then raises the question of whether legacy issues from the measles epidemic close to two years ago were ever addressed at all by the M.O.H. and other State agencies to reduce the risk of infection?In retrospect, while Samoa’s poor rate of vaccination was largely responsible for measles’ rapid spread, the lack of access to water and poor hygiene practices were put down as factors impacting families’ ability to effectively nurse their loved ones back to full recovery.The appearance of another deadly virus, not long after the measles epidemic, could be confirmation families in rural communities remain vulnerable and the interventions applied at that time by the authorities to guard them against the virus didn’t really make an impact.But how are we supposed to know whether that was the case, when repeated calls for a commission of inquiry into the deadly 2019 measles epidemic kept on getting knocked back by then Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi?Politics aside, a Commission of Inquiry would have inquired into the efficiency of the response; the adequacy of Samoa’s health system; disruption to schools and employment; and impact on the country’s top revenue earner tourism amongst others.And its findings would enable local authorities to see the shortcomings in the Government’s health infrastructure and the officers manning them. More importantly, lives can be saved through the implementation of the inquiry’s recommendations.It was a missed opportunity for Tuilaepa’s Government to do what was right at that time to ensure citizens’ health remained a top priority.Nonetheless the emergence of the rotavirus provides the perfect opportunity for the new Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Government to revisit the issue with a view to putting in place long-term health interventions, which would mainly target families in rural communities that remain susceptible.There is no doubt Samoa’s whole health system and infrastructure needs to be reviewed in light of the measles epidemic, the current pandemic and the threat posed to our children by rotavirus.Talk to Samoa’s development partners and donor agencies on the need for a review and invite local health training institutions the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) and the Oceania University of Medicine (O.U.M.) to contribute to the discussions.Staying engaged with international organisations such as the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) – who all played pivotal roles in responding positively to the country’s appeal for assistance during the measles epidemic two years ago – ensures international best practice in healthcare management becomes the end goal of such an exercise to ultimately benefit the citizens of this nation.

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The virtues of boring Government

The very idea of a new Government promises a world of infinite possibilities.Many Samoans are excited about what the next five years may hold and understandably so. A break from more than two decades of uninterrupted rule alone is in and of itself a political development rich with possibilities for change. But achieving progress of any substance will require a new approach to governance from the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa Ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party,We should ask ourselves, is the political party that is barely one year old up to the task of governing Samoa? What will a F.A.S.T. Government look like?One noticeable feature of the F.A.S.T. party is the lack of political experience in its ranks. This is either a virtue or a liability depending on your view of the culture of Government in Samoa. With the notable  exception of its leader, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, who has been in Cabinet under two different Prime Ministers since the early ‘90s, there is not one F.A.S.T. legislator who has served a full term as a Cabinet Minister.That will matter, especially this week, as the Government seeks to stamp its authority on the public service and, as all new administrations must, build legitimacy in the eyes of the public. But we do not think that the relative lack of experience within F.A.S.T.’s ranks, after rule by a party in which power was centralised in the hands of one man , will be to its detriment.Fiame is, after all, ably supported by a cast of advisers who have intricate knowledge of how Samoa’s machinery of Government works and can be reoriented.While he never served out his full term in Cabinet as the Minister for Agriculture, the party’s deputy, La'auli Leuatea Schmidt, a former Speaker, is well known for his knowledge of Parliamentary procedure and political nous. He comes from political stock with deep family connections to the Human Rights Protection Party’s (H.R.P.P.) foundation and while inside that party's tent was regarded as a highly skilled tactician. Testament to his ability to read the public’s mood is the fact that it was his initiative to start F.A.S.T. that so improbably brought down the reign of the 22-year Government of Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi.Also on F.A.S.T. 's side are people, though not likely to be drafted into formal positions, are advisors such as Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, the nation’s most experienced Attorney-General and the architect of the initially-mocked legal tactic - or ‘tent event’ - that brought the party to power. So far the Government has wasted no time in stamping its authority on the governing process and with these and other advisors outside the party, it is unlikely to encounter difficulties in doing so.The public service, almost entirely unaccustomed to the process of a transition to a new Government, was put on notice the day after the Court of Appeal handed down its judgement in a meeting with Cabinet that set the process of transition immediately in motion. Chief among the short-term political priorities of the new administration will be securing funds for its operations and it has signalled its intent to secure one-quarter of normal expenditure under emergency provisions in the constitution as a stop-gap until it has had the chance to examine the state of the nation’s financial position - something that was previously kept closely held by the previous Government. There are other issues to be decided upon, such as how to treat the H.R.P.P. members who did not show up to what now has become the official swearing in of the new Government.But for her outspoken belief in the power of a strong opposition in creating good governance, we expect a means to be found to have the remaining 18 H.R.P.P. M.P.s - whose elections has not been declared void by post-election legal challenges - enter Parliament. But these are small time issues. What can we expect in the long-term from a F.A.S.T. Government?We expect dullness. And we mean it as a compliment; in fact, we hope for it. First and foremost achieving any of its policy priorities will require securing revenue from the nation’s battered economy that has contracted by 10 per cent for two years running. F.A.S.T.’s policy manifesto was, according to Fiame’s own admission, an approximately $1 billion document; or one roughly the value of the existing national budget, When pressed by this newspaper as to how she hoped to realise such a platform, she acknowledged some parts of the manifesto may need to be junked in favour of tax rises or expenditure freezes. Fiame also made a revealing comment about the amount of the budget lost to waste each and every year, The signs of the inefficient allocation of Government resources have been obvious to even the most casual observer of Samoan politics. Government contracts have been awarded without competitive tender processes. Contracts have been given to direct relatives of Cabinet Ministers. And increases in prices of originally cheap bids for tender once a project has been won by a company have all become routine. Fiame said the true extent of what is euphemistically referred to as the “leakage” of Government budgets is unknown and will not be uncovered until the F.A.S.T. administration has access to Government financial statements and time to analyse them.But credible sources within the Government have estimated that as much as one-third of the nation’s budget is lost through such misdirection.Identifying areas where the Government’s coffers are being wasted through inefficiencies or misdirection of funding and closing the loopholes that allow them to be so will be an essential first step.As part of the change of Government culture we expect Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa to be a far less dramatic presence on the national stage than her predecessor who often loomed large over national debate with bombastic statements. We hope Fiame is a Prime Minister with a lower profile altogether. Reports from inside the Cabinet of Tuilaepa suggested he asserted his authority on issues ranging from issues of minor procurement to senior bureaucratic appointmentsMicro-managing leaders who assert their power this way create a policy bottleneck or the political equivalent of a traffic jam that slows down the speed with which policy can be rolled out. We expect the new Government to restore a truly Cabinet-style form of administration in which Ministers are given the freedom to develop expertise in their portfolio and develop solutions to problems accordingly, rather than having power centralised in the hands of the Prime Minister. Such an approach makes for lesser theatrics but better Government. Looking at the big picture, our nation is not short of pressing problems, particularly in the key areas of health and education.We are persistently dogged by the issue of teacher quality and the knock-on effect of poor levels of student’s education.International research has found that Samoan students’ performance on basic measures of literacy and numeracy has plummeted. So too has the rate at which students are completing secondary school; in just two years, between 2016 and 2018, the proportion of students completing their secondary education fell from 71.4 per cent to 35.95 per cent,Attempts to raise teacher quality have not proven an effective remedy. A teacher upgrade programme has not improved educational outcomes while overburdening the National University of Samoa. Last year the number of students who passed their S.S.L.C. exams to gain entry into university fell by 8.5 percentage points when compared to 2017.Finally, the health of our nation must sit atop the Government’s agenda. We are a sick nation. Non-communicable diseases, as they are known in medical jargon, such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and even cancer have skyrocketed in Samoa over the past two decades. According to the World Health Organisation some 70-80 per cent of our adult population are afflicted with such conditions. Despite this, we have only two publicly available pathology services and four radiology services and access to essential services ranging from the country’s often broken M.R.I. scanner all the way down to the availability of simple health measures such as cholesterol checks are frequently interrupted by broken equipment or a lack of supply. The failings of the country;s vaccination programme has been well documented by this newspaper, as it dropped, inexplicably from 2014 to date. We saw the fatal effects of this in the 2019 measles crisis. Now we are seeing it again with the outbreak of a rotavirus pandemic. Several of our Pacific neighbours have been routinely vaccinating children against the often fatal disease for the better part of a decade; our first batch of vaccinations arrived last week.Systematically addressing these lapses is what the nation desperately needs. Some areas of obvious policy neglect will be easily remedied and improve lives; others are wicked problems with complicated causes whose cure is not obvious. But at this stage of the nation’s development the best way we can combat them is to return to the basics Government. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the incoming F.A.S.T. administration is the chance to make Government boring again. 

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Public welcome new Govt after prolonged crisis

Liae Liae, 21, Moataa"Having a new Government is such exciting news for our people of Samoa. After months of frustration and chaos due to politics we now have a Government. Let's see what our new Government leaders have in mind for our country and let's also support the first female Prime Minister of Samoa."Mareta Sefo, 51, Moamoa"I'm not taking any party's side, I only waited for the outcome of 2021 General Election in April. I go with what the Court of Appeal has ordered and now we have a new Government. I am overwhelmed that we now have a new Government and let's see what they have in store for our country."Loleta Luafalealo, 42, Poutasi"I received the good news last night that we have a new Government. After all the political crisis our country has gone through, now it has come to an end, with leaders now able to get on with the job of governing Samoa."AL Laban, 64, Matautu"It is such exciting news for people of Samoa and for myself that there's a new Government. Finally our country would have to go through so much seeking for a winning party and there it is we have FAST party to govern our country. God bless Samoa and our new leaders."Theresa Grace Finau, 47, Malololelei"I am so happy, praise the Lord that it is finally over. Hopefully Tuilaepa is not planning anything within the next 48 hours but pray to God it will remain like this. First of all the appeal should have never happened it was already a constitutional thing that we did on that day. I was there under the tent where the swearing in ceremony was held by FAST party. It was nothing unlawful and even if it was under a tree or whatever if it's time to convene parliament then let it push through. I would like to congratulate our first female Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa. All the best with the new Government of Samoa."Vanya Taulealo, 69, Siusega"Yesterday I was excited and delighted that we have a new Government, I think the country has been under so much stress with uncertainty and elitist things happening. You think you can make a step forward and you get bashed back, you think it was significant to prevail and this disrespect for the law. The judiciary was very disturbing in terms of our democracy and our constitution. It shows how HRPP was ruling as dictatorship as that was not the leading principal of HRPP back in 1992. My friend told me about the great news and I quickly went to the Samoa Observer website and read the whole article from there."

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Public elated with Manu Samoa victories

Peti Pine, 18, Fusi Saoluafata"I am very happy with the boys' performance against Tonga, we have seen so much talent in our boys and they seem to fall in place well with one another. Overall, everything with the game was just fantastic. I also want to thank all our Manu Samoa players for putting Samoa on the map again. We do hope they continue to go on that path and not slack off. And yes, I am very proud of the Manu Samoa, Malo lava boys."Toni Viliamu, 23, Lepea"The game was great! As expected the boys have stepped up their game after their loss. It is great that they have reached the World Cup and we look forward to what they'll bring. Hats off to the management and the boys as well, they did their best and they did it well. No words can describe how much I am happy about their game."Saga Gapoleoge Mau, 71, Leauvaa & Levi Saleimoa"Manu Samoa is finally going back to where it started. I watched both games and I was indeed proud of the outcome. I want to congratulate the head coach and his management for doing such an amazing job, I know it wasn't easy to put together a team and try to familiarise each other but he did it. I know if the boys had been together for a bit longer we could've beaten New Zealand as well. They have made every Samoan proud. They did a great job and making it to the World Cup, it's a huge accomplishment for the coach and his team."Fipe Sootu, 32, Laulii"First of all, we thank the Lord for his guidance and protection upon our team and for giving them the strength to fight a good fight for our country. The sons of Samoa have once again shown what we're made of. I am very proud of them and what they have achieved. I am not a rugby person but I know their games against Tonga were tough but they nailed it. I am just very happy for them."Fiapaipai Tootoo, 56, Faleasiu"Manu Samoa has again made me proud, and I am happy that they have made it to the Rugby World Cup. Their hard work has paid off, they were fighting to be in the World Cup and now they have succeeded. They will be representing Samoa in that part of the world and it is our job to pray for them as they prepare for that World Cup. It may be far but years will pass by quickly. Go the Manu! Alofa atu and you guys are the best."Ioane Feniaso, 25, Falelauniu & Neiafu"Fantastic performance from the boys, I am very happy about the results. There is still work that needs to be done but for the matches again Tonga I am very happy that we beat them twice. Tonga is a tough team but we beat them. Just want to thank the boys for giving it their all and performing well. I believe if they had spent a little bit more time together, and get-to-know each other, I'm sure they will give Samoa another great result. But I am just happy and let's go Manu, to the World Cup we come."

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Olympian flag bearer represents Samoa on world stage

The only flag bearer for Samoa in the track and field events, Alex Rose, has arrived in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics and to hold the Samoan flag high and proud at last night's opening ceremony.Discus thrower  Rose says he is overjoyed about the prospect of representing Samoa as an Olympian. "When I qualified for the Olympics in 2019 I was incredibly happy. At the time a 66 metre throw was a big PR and national record for me! I was so happy to have the chance to once again compete against the best in the world and aim for an Olympic final," he said."I love the solitary nature of athletics and the discus throw. It is an awful lot of work with training, and the tape measure will never lie to you. It's just you and the circle, no teammates or excuses. The better throw always wins."Rose has set his eyes on the prize and he hopes to win a medal for Samoa and himself. He is set to compete on 30 and 31 July."The hardest thing to do in order to qualify for the Olympics is hit the Olympic standard distance. In this case, it was 66 metres," he said.""Only fifteen or so athletes on the planet throw this distance every year, so hitting the standard outright, and qualifying by merit meant a lot to me."I have two goals for this Olympics. First I want to become the first Samoan athlete competing in an Olympic final in Track and Field. Second, I want to compete for a medal.The discus thrower is sponsored by the Earth Fed Muscle Protein company.Apart from Rose, other Samoan athletes competing this week include Marion Faustino Ah Tong's whose first bout will be in Kokugikan Arena on 24 of July against Stephen Zimba of Zambia. Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali will have his first bout on the 27th of July 2021.Paddler Anne Cairns will enter her 200 metre single women's kayak competition, has been confirmed yet when her race is actually on. Ben Percival is set to clash with Frank Ned de Wit in Judo for the first time. 

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Public welcome new Govt after prolonged crisis

Liae Liae, 21, Moataa"Having a new Government is such exciting news for our people of Samoa. After months of frustration and chaos due to politics we now have a Government. Let's see what our new Government leaders have in mind for our country and let's also support the first female Prime Minister of Samoa."Mareta Sefo, 51, Moamoa"I'm not taking any party's side, I only waited for the outcome of 2021 General Election in April. I go with what the Court of Appeal has ordered and now we have a new Government. I am overwhelmed that we now have a new Government and let's see what they have in store for our country."Loleta Luafalealo, 42, Poutasi"I received the good news last night that we have a new Government. After all the political crisis our country has gone through, now it has come to an end, with leaders now able to get on with the job of governing Samoa."AL Laban, 64, Matautu"It is such exciting news for people of Samoa and for myself that there's a new Government. Finally our country would have to go through so much seeking for a winning party and there it is we have FAST party to govern our country. God bless Samoa and our new leaders."Theresa Grace Finau, 47, Malololelei"I am so happy, praise the Lord that it is finally over. Hopefully Tuilaepa is not planning anything within the next 48 hours but pray to God it will remain like this. First of all the appeal should have never happened it was already a constitutional thing that we did on that day. I was there under the tent where the swearing in ceremony was held by FAST party. It was nothing unlawful and even if it was under a tree or whatever if it's time to convene parliament then let it push through. I would like to congratulate our first female Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa. All the best with the new Government of Samoa."Vanya Taulealo, 69, Siusega"Yesterday I was excited and delighted that we have a new Government, I think the country has been under so much stress with uncertainty and elitist things happening. You think you can make a step forward and you get bashed back, you think it was significant to prevail and this disrespect for the law. The judiciary was very disturbing in terms of our democracy and our constitution. It shows how HRPP was ruling as dictatorship as that was not the leading principal of HRPP back in 1992. My friend told me about the great news and I quickly went to the Samoa Observer website and read the whole article from there."

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Letter to Editor

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Where did you pick up this kind of garbage?: Tuilaepa

14 July 2021Letter to the Editor Samoa ObserverSACKING OF CHIEF JUSTICE (CJ) AND FALSE RUMOURSSomeone wrote to me today (July 13th) mentioning a rumour your newspaper has created that this Government plans to dismiss the CJ.  This is news to me.  Where did you pick up this kind of garbage? The FAST leadership? It must be!The political problems facing Samoa today were never caused by this Government.  If it is to be recalled, three major Court decisions have been instrumental in the impasse we are confronting today.First:    The Supreme Court decision which erroneously decided that five (5) women MPs comprised 10% stipulated under Article 44 of the Constitution.  It was a very, very strange split decision.  The Court then chose the length of time for the Electoral Commission to submit his report to the Head of State on the official results of the General Election (an issue that was irrelevant in the case) as the basis of its decision.  This was the first Court decision with a classic tail end.Second:  The Court of Appeal then overruled the Supreme Court decision and stated that the correct number of women MPs is six (6) as the HRPP argued.  But then attached another of its own tail end that the sixth woman (an HRPP candidate) can only be activated after all the petitions have been heard and bi-elections have been held.  This is the second tail created by the Court – again raising many more questions.  The HRPP has nevertheless accepted this decision with humility and this is where we are today – waiting and waiting.  If there was no tail end  here, Parliament could have convened then with FAST and HRPP both having 26-26 members each, a tie, a hung parliament, and therefore a possible General or Snap Election.  That is the ideal solution – Let the people decide!  However the Court and FAST did not seem to want that.  The Court by implication seems to want to choose the Government they wanted.  Third:  The Supreme Court decision presided over by Justice Vui ruled against the ceremony by FAST under the tent on Monday 24th May 2021 as unconstitutional, illegal and therefore void and of no effect.  Bravo!  But then very strangely attached another tail end that Parliament must meet within seven days or else the Court would reconsider the issue of the ceremony that was already declared illegal and unconstitutional – a plain threat.  And using the Doctrine of Necessity which in short could declare legal what was already ruled as unconstitutional and illegal!This Supreme Court decision was based on the Head of State’s Proclamation of 20th May 2021 which had already lapsed or expired.  Again FAST has appealed Justice Vui’s decision.    These famous Court initiated tails have frustrated the normal functioning of the Parliamentary Processes under the Constitution of the Independent State of Samoa.  As mentioned above, these three tails are the causes of our current political problems.The Head of State in his recent proclamation on Sunday 4th July 2021 has provided a solution.  He, as the Sole Legal Authority to convene Parliament has called for all actions necessary to be completed to properly convene Parliament on Monday 2nd August 2021.Tuila’epa Sa’ilele MalielegaoiPRIME MINISTER

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S.N.P.F. C.E.O. defends fund from criticism

Dear Editorial Board,I am responding to the editorial of the 29th of April aptly titled “SNPF deal a question of transparency”. I don’t usually respond to articles about SNPF that appear in your paper from time to time but in this particular case my spirit has roused me to say something in case any silence on my part is misconstrued as acceptance of the ludicrous musings in your piece. Far from it! So please indulge me as I do my best to respond to the different matters you raise.Firstly, to the matter of the recent SNPF input into the government stimulus package. You seem to casually brush these off as “not stimulus measures in the classical sense”. Well guess what? I do not doubt for a minute that the 13,787 members who have received upwards of $2.4 million tala in the last 3 weeks alone are appreciating every single sene of hard cash that they otherwise would not have had in their hands at all if it wasn’t for this “stimulus”. Your casual, dismissive sentiments towards the Fund’s and the government’s initiatives come across as appallingly unappreciative and ridiculously out-of-touch.Secondly, you question the logic behind the decision to purchase the Mulifanua land for $34 million tala. I am more than a little puzzled here because you first correctly define ‘provident’ as future-minded and then in your very next sentence you contradict yourself somewhat and ask what is ‘provident’ about this decision. I really don’t get how you can’t see it.I’ll try to spell out the basics for you with this illustration; My wife and I bought a quarter-acre land parcel at Vaitele Uta in 2013 at the market price of $80,000 tala. A neighbour across the road, said that he got his quarter-acre back in the 1980s for about $5000 tala. Today, in 2020, our same quarter-acre is now valued at $130,000 tala just for the land. Notice the exponential growth in market value? That is the same basic principle that applies to ALL real estate – even the Mulifanua land purchase - just on a bigger scale. Therefore, if we were just to look at the land (yes just the land) that the Fund bought for $34 million tala in 2019 – what do you think the value will be in 2025? 2030? Or even 2050? The short point is – this was a long-term investment decision that can only stand to benefit the owners of SNPF – the members. They are the ones who will reap the future benefit from the Capital Gains.  You can say oh what about the slump in tourism? And I would say – what about it? There is a multitude of other things we can do over there not just a resort. If worse comes to worse, we can pull it all down and lease the land to another investor to build something else over there. Or maybe down the line some rich Arab comes along and wants to buy it outright – who stands to benefit from the profit on sale? The members! If this is not “future-minded” thinking, then I don’t know what is.Moreover, this land and all our other properties represent a mere 15% of our total investment portfolio of $794 million tala. Speaking of which, the portfolio is carefully managed and diversified to ensure maximum returns at the minimal risk.Thirdly, you opine about transparency. What exactly is your definition of transparency? I only ask because the Fund has obligatory reporting lines on its finances, operations and decisions to the Auditor General, the Central Bank, the MPE and to Cabinet. Add to that, our annual reports and audit reports are closely scrutinized by multiple parliamentary committees who in-turn report back to parliament – you know, that place made up of the 50 individuals that represent every corner of Samoa and all our people? So what are you talking about? Transparency? If your answer is for us to stop and ask for the Observer’s blessing each time we make a decision whether minute or substantial, then, I’m afraid we’ll always fall short of your standard. Fourthly, you surmise as to whether this money could have been better spent on what you term as “real cash injections” for the stimulus package. My, my talk about short-term memory. Or is it just plain ignorance for the facts? Allow me to jog your memory of recent history.In July 2017, we gave back to our members $37 million worth of dividends. In July 2018, we gave back $53 million. In 2019 we gave back to our members twice! $54 million in July and another $8 million in December. That’s a total of $152 million worth of injections in only the last 3 years! The biggest such injections in the Fund’s history.  Those are the “real” hard facts. You guys must have been on the moon or something? So please tell me, are those the kind of results that poor investment decisions produce?Finally, you guys keep harping-on about Desico, flogging the same dead horse over-and-over. Desico is long dead. I can write a book about the arguments both ways on the merits of the decision taken at that time but what use will that be? It was a different time, a different CEO, a different management, a different Board, a different Minister, a different everything! Let’s not dwell in the past any longer, but look to the future. If I keep dwelling on my shadow behind me, I will never see clearly the awesome opportunities that lay ahead of me. Someone smart once said “Enjoy the present and live for what tomorrow has to offer, not for what yesterday has taken away”. Let me say one more thing. I say this with all the conviction I can muster. I have seen and witnessed the goodness of God on SNPF. My fervent prayer everyday – is thanksgiving for the abundance of HIS Grace and the appropriation by faith of HIS unmerited favour. That is why there is no doubt in my mind; SNPF will continue to thrive with Christ at the wheel in spite of all the critics and the detractors. No doubt whatsoever. Manuia le tou galuegaPauli Prince SuhrenCHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERSamoa National Provident Fund

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Ah Liki responds to caretaker P.M.

Dear Editor,I refer to the above article in your paper today.For the information of the general public and our business community. Bluebird Lumber ceased all logging and sawmilling operations from Aopo since 2006 when the Government terminated all local native forest commercial logging licenses.Aopo is the biggest land owner in Samoa and have access to huge mill-able native forests inland besides the Sasina-Aopo boundary under dispute.For the last 15 years 99.99% of timber sold at BBL are H3 Treated Pine from New Zealand. Despite being expensive for obvious reasons, the people of Samoa had no other option but to buy it. Bluebird Lumber Co Ltd has no control over that but to comply with government instructions.Here at Bluebird, we accept and sell any native local timber available from non-commercial saw-millers for our low budget customers which makes (.01%) of our total timber sales. Our primary mandate is providing the most cheapest option for our people and benefits for the non-commercial saw-millers as well.Bluebird Lumber and Hardware are not involved in any village or Government politics, we just provide a service to all citizens of Samoa.Wishing good health to our Customers.Tuiaopo Andrew Ah Liki Managing Director

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Head of State’s flawed Parliament proclamation

Neroni Slade, one of Samoa's most eminent international jurists, whose experience includes being a judge on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Samoa's former Ambassador to the United Nations and a long-serving Attorney-General, wrote to the Samoa Observer on Tuesday to express his reading of the constitutional issues at the heart of Samoa's current political crisis.Dear Sir,Re: Head of State Proclamation on August sitting of Parliament: your issue 5 July 2021It is wrong and completely unfair to impute ‘disregard and disrespect’ to the Supreme Court Judges and the judgement delivered last Friday, 28 July 2021. Before open vilification, the judgment deserves to be read properly and in its entirety.Key parties were well represented, and their submissions heard and dealt with carefully and in detail.The Attorney General’s application, motivated by the need to ensure ‘legal certainty’, was that the swearing-in of FAST representatives, conducted in the absence of the Head of State, was unconstitutional and unlawful. The Court agreed and held the swearing-in to be void and of no effect.However, the Court was also concerned that the clear mandate of Article 52 of the Constitution (that the Legislative Assembly “shall meet not later than 45 days after the holding of a general election”) remained unsatisfied. As the judgement noted, “it is beyond time to give full force and effect to the Head of States’ Proclamation of 20 May 2021 convening the 17th Parliament of Samoa.”  The Court accepted the concession from counsel for the Attorney General that “expeditious action” would be required by all “relevant actors.”    The Attorney General’s application was brought under the Declaratory Judgments Act 1988, an Act which enabled the Court to issue discretionary declaratory orders “necessary in the circumstances” and which are binding on the Government. As detailed in the judgment (para. 66 (iv) (1) and (2)), the first two of the declaratory orders read as follows:1. The Proclamation of the Head of State dated 20 May 2021 is to forthwith be given full force and effect by the Applicant (the Attorney General) without further delay or procrastination; 2. The Applicant to advise the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly and all other relevant parties or “relevant actors” as the case may be to comply with the said Proclamation and convene the Parliament of Samoa within 7 days hereof so that Parliament may discharge its constitutional and other functions in accordance with Part V of the Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament. From the above, it is clear that the orders issued by judgment of the Court are based entirely on the fact of an existing proclamation made by the Head of State. And that being so, it is difficult to see how there can be any basis for any suggestion of “disregard and disrespect” of the powers and the position of the Head of State or of the Court’s judgment amounting to a threat or usurpation of such powers and position. Rather, what seems to be at issue (as, correctly, reflected in declaratory order (2) above) is not so much the “power” but the action required for the discharge of a solemn constitutional responsibility at a most critical time in the life of the nation.In this judgement the Bench comprised senior, highly experienced and careful Judges. Samoa is fortunate in that by any measure, Judges of the Supreme Court are, in my personal estimation, of the highest standards. They deserve the fullest public respect and support.  Judges are the public face of justice, the true guardians of the rule of law. As explained in the judgment (para. 58), the rule of law subjects and governs “one and all from the Head of State down to the ordinary citizen”. There is not one above the supremacy of the rule of law and of the Constitution.The Constitution of Samoa is for “we the people”, created by and given to the people through a hard-fought and highly democratic process. Samoa was never a monarchy, does not need or deserve monarchical powers.From one who has legal and judicial experience of Samoa and internationally.Tuiloma Neroni Slade       

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