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The taro export lifeline and taking a holistic approach

The country enters the first week of a month-long state of emergency today, after the Cabinet met last Friday and decided to extend the S.O.E. by another four weeks.Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi announced the extension before the 14-days S.O.E. expired last Saturday, while adding that the four-week extension will give Samoa the guarantee that it remains free from the coronavirus (COVID-19).As one of the first nations in the region to impose strict travel restrictions on travellers entering the country, we are now beginning to see the benefits of that intervention with Samoa now one of few states in the world with no confirmed cases.Our neighbours Fiji confirmed five new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing their total to 12, compelling Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama to warn that he might have no choice but to put the country in lockdown if the cases increase.In New Zealand authorities have 950 confirmed cases and one death with 127 having recovered from the virus. On a global scale, COVID-19 continues to take lives and decimate economies, having already logged 1.2 million confirmed cases and is on course to claiming 65,000 lives worldwide, according to data from the U.S. Johns Hopkins University. A total of 246,000 COVID-19 patients have recovered.Therefore, we must not be complacent and should continue to adhere to the S.O.E. orders and live our normal lives, despite the emergence of new challenges, such as the curtailing of movement and restricted trading hours for supermarkets.The restricted trading hours and the banning of the sales of goods in Apia – in line with the orders of the SOE – is already having an impact on the ability of some families to take care of their needs.However, we note a silver lining in these clouds of uncertainty with the news of Samoa’s taro being thrown an export lifeline to the New Zealand and U.S. markets, despite the COVID-19 global pandemic shutdown.Revelations by local exporter Ah Liki Investment of their intention to continue to export taro to the two international markets, amidst the global pandemic, will be music to the ears of Samoa’s local farmers. “Despite the lockdown measures these countries have imposed, they are still accepting our product as it is considered an essential food item,” said Ah Liki Investment General Manager, Asiata Alex Brunt.“Their supermarkets/dairies remain open to serve their respective populations so the window remains open for us as they understand too the importance of food security.”The company plans to ship up to five containers to New Zealand next week containing taro from farmers in both Upolu and Savai’i.The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, says the export market is an essential window to assist local farmers during COVID-19. And we cannot agree more as it ensures continuity in terms of income generation for the farmers and their families, at a time when even accessing markets within the country, has become a hurdle due to S.O.E. restrictions.This window of opportunity for Samoa’s taro farmers coincides with the recent decision by the Australian government to extend the visas of participants in Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme, which would see Samoans currently participating in the two programmes being able to extend their stay for up to one year.Like the taro export opportunity, Australia’s extension of the visas for Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme participants will also have a positive effect on their families in Samoa. The uncertainty driven by rising COVID-19 infection rates in Australia would have created fear amongst seasonal workers’ families back home, but that can now be put to bed as a steady stream of financial support can be confirmed if the Samoan workers opt to extend their visas for up to a year.But we know that there are families who do not have access to these income generation opportunities, and are most likely to be the ones who will fall through the gap, if the Government doesn't consider some form of financial support when the S.O.E. has obstructed their means of and access to income.In fact taking a holistic approach when formulating the Government’s proposed COVID-19 stimulus package would ensure the interests and welfare of everyone is taken into consideration and no one gets left behind.Let’s continue to adhere to the S.O.E. orders, maintain social distancing and promote hygiene and sanitation.

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Giving selflessly as a leader in a crisis

These are challenging times for Samoa as the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic wreaks havoc with economies around the world, impacting our tourism industry to force the laying off of hundreds of workers, slowly shut the door on our export markets, and lead to the temporary closure of local businesses as well as the introduction of restricted trading hours.Consequently, there are families throughout the length and breadth of Samoa, who have had their livelihoods, including paid employment and the selling of fresh produce, pulled like a mat from under their feet. Three months ago, families were in recovery mode and picking up the pieces to rebuild their lives, following a tragic measles epidemic that claimed over 80 lives under four months. No one heard of COVID-19 until late December and early January, when we were all looking forward to getting our lives back on track to usher in a new year. And in the fourth month of 2020, we are back in a statement of emergency (S.O.E.), just three months after the last one for the measles outbreak was lifted.It is why the sentiments of the former Member of Parliament and businessman, Leanapapa Laki Anderson, will make sense to a lot of people, for Samoa’s leaders, including Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi to make sacrifices.Leanapapa, who runs a bus company, told Samoa Observer in its April 2, 2020 edition of how his business has lost income due to the S.O.E. and the subsequent lockdown."I watched him (Tuilaepa) on television,” Leanapapa said. “He keeps telling us to make a sacrifice. Now that pains me because I’ve lost a lot of income as a bus company owner since the Government banned all the buses. That is my sacrifice. What about him?"We don’t have any side jobs and any other means of making money unlike Tuilaepa who knows he is going to get paid regardless.”The challenge by the former M.P. highlights the need for the Government to consider cost-cutting measures, as part of its rescue package to stabilise the economy, which could include a salary sacrifice by all senior public officials.The last time the Samoa Observer published figures of Government leaders’ salaries was in September 2017, with the wages bill of the top bracket of public officials at that time, costing taxpayers a total of $9.22 million tala. It has been over two years since the publication of these figures, and we would expect the Government’s salary expenditure to increase and take a large chunk of the total annual budget today.And while the Government’s annual budget is a couple of months away from being handed down in the Parliament, the power is in the hands of our leaders to consider salary sacrifices, as a gesture to show the people that we are all in this together.Samoa’s various churches – led by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Methodist Church, Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, and the Samoa Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church and their congregations – rose to the occasion during the measles epidemic late last year and early 2020, and selflessly gave over $566,687 tala in hard cash to the Government’s measles recovery effort.And around the world, there are examples of chief executive officers voluntarily accepting salary cuts in these unprecedented times. Not only to show that it is a humane thing to do, but as their contribution towards ensuring their companies stay afloat and is able to weather-the-storm brought on by the global pandemic.The high benchmark set by the local churches and their congregations, of giving selflessly during the measles outbreak despite the personal struggles of individual families, now puts the spotlight on our leaders and the Government.Can our leaders do the honorable thing and take a salary cut to show the people that they truly care and to demonstrate that we are all in this together?The implementation of the S.O.E. has translated to shorter working hours for the civil service from 9am to 2pm. Should their weekly salaries reflect the ‘five hours’ work that they put in from Monday to Friday?The reduced working hours also justifies the need for a review of all officers’ roles and responsibilities, and the streamlining and retaining of those officers in core Government functions. What about the assorted public servants’ allowances as well as fees paid to Government board directors and chairs, who are not employees of the organisation but are recipients of $18,500 (director’s fee) and $22,500 (chair’s fee) annually in compensation? Not forgetting the Accident Compensation Corporation (A.C.C.) which has over the years collected levies from employers (1 per cent), employees (1 per cent) and fuel distributors (5 sene per gallon) and often comes under scrutiny for not giving back to the community.And if there is a stimulus package being framed by the Government, we hope it would factor in a basic weekly living allowance, for vulnerable families who lack any form of income generation opportunities.  It is in times like this that we are reminded of a famous quote by former U.S. vice president Hubert Humphrey, on how a government treats the society’s most vulnerable: “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”Stay safe Samoa and remember to wash your hands, maintain social distancing, and adhere to the S.O.E. orders.

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Culture shows value in crisis

The global spread of the coronavirus and the varying intensity with which it peaks in some countries but not others is bringing attention to the role culture plays in successfully managing its spread. As the Government orders four more weeks of state of emergency measures and sealing ourselves off from the world, we are reminded of recent glimpses of the different ways Samoan culture has responded to directions from authority. Ccoronavirus threatens massive upheaval; but if it were to reach our shores, the Samoan way of life would pose both advantages and disadvantages in limiting its spread. At its simplest level, the structure of most Samoans' closely configured living arrangements appear to make us more vulnerable to the passing on of infection than other cultures. Combined with the inherent cultural value placed on closeness, these factors make Samoan culture seem totally anathema to two buzzwords that have guided the international response to the pandemic: “social distancing”. Similarly the different sources of authority in Samoa also seem to pose a challenge to the enforcement of top-down orders from Government which have formed the basis of every other country’s response. The Archdiocese of Samoa’s holding of four Sunday services last month after state of emergency orders were declared is a classic example of how tensions can emerge between different centres of power.Some analysts studying the spread of the pandemic have conjectured that its relatively successful containment in east and southeast Asia owes to Confucian or other cultural values that place an emphasis on placing society above one’s self. Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore have all had exemplary responses to the crisis; their citizens have obeyed Government-imposed lock down orders perfectly.We should always be wary of cultural generalisations. But it must be noted that atomised societies where individualism reigns appear to have had the most difficulty in containing the virus’ spread.  America now finds itself a world leader in coronavirus cases at some 240,000. That owes something, no doubt, to President Trump’s early and strangely blase response to the pandemic.  But scenes of people cavorting across Australia’s Bondi Beach days after social isolation measures were passed were a stark example of the risks of rampant individualism. Similarly ugly scenes involving the hoarding of goods at supermarkets were another reminder. And so while its closeness and sense of community is perhaps Samoa’s biggest risk factor should the coronavirus reach our shores, it is also our greatest asset. Recent incidents have shown that the Samoan reflex to bind together in times of crisis have been shining examples. The communal response to the daring escape of 36 criminals in what was perhaps our biggest ever prison outbreak last month is one.That all the escapees were recaptured within four days was a feat as extraordinary as the breakout itself.“We want to thank the members of the community, the aumaga (untitled men), and village councils that assisted the Police that were working around the clock to capture the prisoners," the Commissioner of Police, Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil said at a press conference announcing the successful recapture. The Commissioner’s words were more than just platitudes. The village and matai system played an essential role in making sure that those who broke free were recaptured. In Savaia more than 30 untitled men were stationed around the village as a measure to assist with the recapture.Stories such as these are far from isolated; across the breadth of Upolu a communal response to a national crisis clicked into action like a reflex. Villages such as Aleisa and Fasito'o Uta were instrumental in bringing in escaped prisoners. And the story of Reverend Pio Filipo Paiti, feeding and convincing the final four prisoners on the run to turn themselves in is an illustration of how churches, the other pillar of Samoan society, also rose to the occasion. It seems inevitable that whether or not an infected case of the coronavirus arrives on our shores that we will be struck by an economic shockwave the likes of which we have not seen for generations.But should the need arise for social distancing to be implemented in the event of an outbreak, the very same closeness that puts Samoa at risk of disease transmission will certainly play a role in ensuring isolation orders are obeyed where in other countries they have been ignored. Some villages in Savai'i have even been carrying out inspections to make sure that families are practising proper hygiene. Even in the event that only the economic aspects of the pandemic hit Samoa, preparations are also being made in some villages where untitled men have taken to working the land to ensure food supply. The speed with which the country became vaccinated against measles was another excellent example of how, when united, this nation can achieve incredible feats. The Government, as it prepares its longer-term response to the coronavirus should do as much as it can to leverage this cultural resilience.So much about the coronavirus is unknown and the situation is developing rapidly. Coordination between the Health Ministry and village councils and churches will be essential to ensuring that approaches are consistent. Working with village councils and churches will be much more effective than delivering edicts via television or Facebook. The nature of Samoan culture and the competing sources of authority can often make things messy.But it is in times of and crisis we can appreciate the awesome power of the Samoan way of living. 

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In times like this, we have to come together, stay strong and keep the faith

Cabinet’s decision to extend the State of Emergency (S.O.E.) makes sense.Although the additional four weeks might sound like an eternity given the restrictions many of us are still trying to come to terms with, what’s a few more weeks if it means saving precious lives and stopping the deadly coronavirus pandemic from reaching our shores?Don’t take us wrongly; what is happening is not ideal. But all you have to do is look at the latest statistics on this deadly virus to know we cannot be complacent. It is also why we believe the Government must be supported in its response.When this piece was being compiled, 59,197 people had died from 1.17 million cases worldwide. In Samoa, six of 26 cases remain untested as we speak. Without the result of those six tests, it is comforting to know that Samoa remains one of a few countries in the world where the coronavirus is not found. Which is great news.This country is still reeling from the devastation of the measles crisis. Nobody ever dreamt that so soon this nation of just less than 200,000 people could enter a six-week state of emergency with consequences that reach far beyond health and general wellbeing.We just cannot place a value on how much this will hurt this country financially. Not yet anyways.But then who expected something like this to happen let alone now?  Nobody could have predicted that today, we would find ourselves in a situation where we are. Nobody could have imagined that everything we all thought was so important we could not do without could be stripped from us and we’re all so helpless to do something about it.Think of all the social gatherings, schools, churches, jobs and all other gatherings that used to occupy our time and cost so much money. Think of how life has dramatically changed during the past few weeks? Think of the things we considered ever so normal only a few weeks back that seem so distant and far away today?But here we are; in Samoa and around the world today where the coronavirus pandemic has stopped us in our tracks, bringing everything to a grinding halt.It is a cruel, cruel reality. It’s a crisis that has transcended borders, race, religion, continents and nations. It does not discriminate and it doesn’t care what you think.Every one throughout the world would have the same complaints and questions. How dare this happens now when there is so much to be done? How dare when we have so many business opportunities to chase, millions of dollars to collect, dreams to fulfill? How dare when we have church conferences to hold, birthdays, weddings and parties to attend? How dare when we have education dreams, fitness goals to fulfill and so forth?The questions are endless. But that’s expected, it’s in our human nature to react that way.The reality is that today, we are all in this together. Whether we like it or not, the truth staring at us unblinkingly is that how we survive during the next few weeks and months will depend entirely on our response.We have two options. We can moan, complain and continue to ask questions. Or we can do the best we can to adapt given the present circumstances so we can make the best out of the situation. We recommend the latter.For sure it’s not ideal but it is not impossible either. It’s going to be uncomfortable, challenging, scary but we are all in this together and we can help each other come out stronger and wiser.The point is that everybody has a role to play. And each and every one of us need to play our part.On Friday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the Government announced an extension of the S.O.E. for another four weeks. In the meantime, all orders remain the same although some of them might be amended in the coming days.From an economic point of view, all eyes are on Tuesday’s special Parliament session where the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, will announce a stimulus package. We don’t know how much the Government is prepared to offer.What we can hope for is that the stimulus package will offer some degree of comfort not just for businesses that are hurting but for individual families including some of Samoa’s most vulnerable who are without jobs and income.On the other hand, we urge everyone to cooperate with the authorities in terms of the instructions given under the S.O.E.For most Samoans, one of the hardest ones to follow is the ban on all church gatherings, especially on a day like today, Sunday. But there is an opportunity in every situation. While to fellowship as a church body is necessary and wonderful, in the absence of that today, there is an opportunity to focus on relationships. Firstly, your individual relationship with God and then your family. They are precious and priceless.In times like this, it is our faith and identity that will get us through. Let’s try and see the positives that this extended lockdown presents. Let’s support each other, find comfort where we can and do the best to ensure the next few weeks and possibly months will go by quickly.Today being Palm Sunday in preparation for the Easter Week ahead, we need to believe that there is hope.Stay safe, stay strong and may God continue to keep us all!

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Street Talk

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Public encouraged to use online services for payments

Serafina Pua23 years old.TaufusiSamoan people are not aware of how much work online apps can save. I strongly recommend the use of online payments and shopping and internet banking because, it is reliable and more convenient, especially during these difficult times. People should start registering and join the online platform as it will do them a great favour, we are on lockdown and people from afar can no longer come to town because there are no buses and online transactions will save them time, money and energy.Faith-in-Zion Ualesi21 years oldMagiagiThese online apps will save your time and money, the process is very easy and officers can assist you through the phone instead of travelling to the office to register. Every family in Samoa needs cash power, paying your electricity bills and buying cash power is much easier now that we have an app for online payments and purchasing. 7 days is a long time and you can save your petrol and taxi fares now that these services are offered online. It is safer to buy online as we are practising social distancing and self-isolation, COVID-19 and any other disease can be avoided if you limit your contact with other people and you can be safe and use these services from your homes. Fuatino Thetadig22 years oldTaufusi.During the lockdown, many people are struggling to find their way to town and making these payments are difficult now and some can not make payments at all because they don't have transportation. Using these apps can help them save money and it is much safer to pay from home to avoid physical contact and joining a mass gathering.Niu Falepau.26 years old.Malie.I strongly recommend using online apps that are made available by businesses, now that we are in the state of emergency. You can use these apps from anywhere and anytime, people don't have to worry about transportation especially now that the government have stopped buses and have a restricted number of passengers travelling in taxis and other vehicles. Almost everyone in Samoa has a phone and MTala app, for example, can be accessed at any time and does not require any data, customers should be informed about these online apps as it will save them a lot of money.Joe Merrik42 years old.United States of AmericaThe problem is that people don't know about these apps and I think that if they learn more about it and that they can use it from their homes instead of spending money on transportation. Back in America, almost everything is done online and we would have most of the things delivered to our house without having left, and this is one of the things that Samoan people should take advantage of and get familiar with. People should definitely use online apps, like the Maua app they have a variety of products from different companies on their app and they also deliver to homes, if people are aware of this I'm sure it will help them a lot especially during times like tis.Sanele Tofilau.19 years old.Tulaele.For a generation that is all about social media, they should be able to pick up useful and important things like these online apps. I am certain that most people can access the internet and have bank accounts and they can use these apps from home and any other place there isn't much cost to it apart from the amount spent on the transactions made. People should start using these available apps as many stores and businesses are closed during the SOE. Save yourself from infection and save your money by using these new apps.

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How small businesses are coping with lockdown

Pauli Lagi, 60, SalelologaThe disease has really affected small businesses. People aren't coming to the town area because of no buses so we have been earning very little since the lockdown began but it is for the health of everyone. I hope the disease does not get to Samoa. We are relying on God to protect us from the disease and it is best to prepare as the Government is always telling us to.Annie Tupai, 18, SalailuaWe get few customers now because people are chose not to come to the town area because of the disease but I praise the governments decision of a lockdown because health is a priority. In terms of earning money, business has been slow for the past few days and we are lucky if we get any customers.Toa Sefo, 65, TuanaiI am disappointed with the fact that small businesses have been affected because of the disease. We have been told that the market closes early so it really affects us because we are trying to sell our goods so that we can earn a living.Mickey Lafaele, 20, SiusegaBusiness has been really slow since the lockdown started. Buses would usually bring people to the town area but now there are no buses which means less customers. My shop still has customers but it isn't busy as it was before. I don't know what will happen if the lockdown might get extended.Muagututia Ioapo, 52, SalelologaThe lockdown has had a really big impact on my business because there are not much customers around, especially with no tourists in the country at the moment. I support the Government's lockdown decision but I believe the markets should have been shut down too. We are advised to stay 1 meter away from one another but here at the market people are all close together so I don't think that's helping out with the lockdown.Fouvale Tamalemai, 22, LalovaeaI support the Governments lockdown decision but my small business here has been affected because of less people coming to the town area. I manage the billiard tables at the market and due to the ban in public gatherings, I have no choice but to close up until the lockdown is lifted. Overall, health is important and what the Government is doing is right.

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Public encouraged to use online services for payments

Serafina Pua23 years old.TaufusiSamoan people are not aware of how much work online apps can save. I strongly recommend the use of online payments and shopping and internet banking because, it is reliable and more convenient, especially during these difficult times. People should start registering and join the online platform as it will do them a great favour, we are on lockdown and people from afar can no longer come to town because there are no buses and online transactions will save them time, money and energy.Faith-in-Zion Ualesi21 years oldMagiagiThese online apps will save your time and money, the process is very easy and officers can assist you through the phone instead of travelling to the office to register. Every family in Samoa needs cash power, paying your electricity bills and buying cash power is much easier now that we have an app for online payments and purchasing. 7 days is a long time and you can save your petrol and taxi fares now that these services are offered online. It is safer to buy online as we are practising social distancing and self-isolation, COVID-19 and any other disease can be avoided if you limit your contact with other people and you can be safe and use these services from your homes. Fuatino Thetadig22 years oldTaufusi.During the lockdown, many people are struggling to find their way to town and making these payments are difficult now and some can not make payments at all because they don't have transportation. Using these apps can help them save money and it is much safer to pay from home to avoid physical contact and joining a mass gathering.Niu Falepau.26 years old.Malie.I strongly recommend using online apps that are made available by businesses, now that we are in the state of emergency. You can use these apps from anywhere and anytime, people don't have to worry about transportation especially now that the government have stopped buses and have a restricted number of passengers travelling in taxis and other vehicles. Almost everyone in Samoa has a phone and MTala app, for example, can be accessed at any time and does not require any data, customers should be informed about these online apps as it will save them a lot of money.Joe Merrik42 years old.United States of AmericaThe problem is that people don't know about these apps and I think that if they learn more about it and that they can use it from their homes instead of spending money on transportation. Back in America, almost everything is done online and we would have most of the things delivered to our house without having left, and this is one of the things that Samoan people should take advantage of and get familiar with. People should definitely use online apps, like the Maua app they have a variety of products from different companies on their app and they also deliver to homes, if people are aware of this I'm sure it will help them a lot especially during times like tis.Sanele Tofilau.19 years old.Tulaele.For a generation that is all about social media, they should be able to pick up useful and important things like these online apps. I am certain that most people can access the internet and have bank accounts and they can use these apps from home and any other place there isn't much cost to it apart from the amount spent on the transactions made. People should start using these available apps as many stores and businesses are closed during the SOE. Save yourself from infection and save your money by using these new apps.

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Government's response gets tick of approval

Kelemete Kelemete, 19, Nu'u-FouI thank the Government for protecting our people. They made the right decision to lockdown our country even without a positive case. I thank God for his protection of us and our country because we aren't affected by the Coronavirus.Tolio Ah Sam, 16, Nu'u-FouI support the decision our Government makes because it is for the future of our nation. What we the public should do is obey what the Government has asked us to do. We should also help others who are in need of assistance because even though there is no confirmed case in Samoa, we should always stay prepared because prevention is better than treatment. We should also pray to God for our protection and have faith in him.Popo Misikopa, 60, LepaThe coronavirus spreads through contact with other people so I believe that this lockdown is needed for our safety. Treatment costs way more than prevention. It is good that flights into the country have been stopped because this is the pathway that the disease can get into our country. Businesses have been affected but you can get money any other day but you don't get a second life. I thank the Government for their hard work. Who knows, everything might get back to normal in the next month.Elika Usita'i, 39, ToamuaThe Government has done an amazing job in protecting our country. Even though this lockdown has affected many people but it is all for the safety and health of our people. The Government knows what they are doing so we should follow what the Government is telling us to do.Fiaui Gasologa, 40, FaleasiuI commend the Government for their efforts to protect our country from the Coronavirus but there is one issue, there are no confirmed cases in Samoa so why has the travel of the public between Upolu and Savaii been cut off? There are people in Savaii who work in Upolu but cannot come back here because travel of the public between the two islands are currently on hold. I think that travel between the two islands should only be stopped if there is a confirmed case in Samoa. Even though most businesses and jobs have been affected by the Coronavirus, we have other options to turn to for food and income and I am talking about the crops and produce from the land. Our ancestors lived from the land. If they can do it then we can too.Atanifa Futiese Vaefaga, 78, Manono-TaiI thank God for protecting us. We are safe because of the love of God. I also thank the Government of Samoa and their efforts in protecting our country. The Coronavirus has really affected many countries overseas and we are fortunate to not be affected by it. We should continue to pray to God for our protection and have faith in Him. Me and my family are prepared for the disease because the Government has informed us well on how to prepare for this disease.

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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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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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Samoa Airways ominous wall of silence

There has been deafening silence about what’s happening with Samoa Airways.A week ago, the Samoa Observer front paged a story about Fonoti Micheline Tauaa, the airline’s sales manager being put on leave pending an investigation into allegations against her of sharing business confidential information with a top government official.There are far worse misdemeanors than sharing information with senior government officials who normally have an oversight role over public enterprises anyway, but that’s another matter. But according to the article, when asked for comment, Fonoti confirmed that yes, she had been put on leave with full pay since 30th July. And no, the allegations against her are false, and she had every intention of clearing her name.And that was as far as the coverage of this disturbing story went. Because when asked about the suspension of Fonoti, the responsible minister, Lautafi Selafi Purcell said he did not know the details and passed the ball to the Samoa Airways CEO Seiuli Alvin Tuala.The CEO in turn, made himself scarce and neither answered his telephone nor responded to email communication.  Samoa Airways’, newly appointed Chairman of the board of directors Muagututia Lafaele Ngau Chung, similarly could not be reached for comment, although he was in Samoa.It’s been more than a week now and there is still silence from the responsible minister and management and board of Samoa Airways on the worrying subject and more specifically on the investigation that was to either confirm or disprove the allegations against Fonoti bearing in mind its almost two months since Fonoti was suspended on full pay.Which does raise the question; does the public have a right to non-commercially sensitive information of public enterprises that is deemed of public interest?The answer would have to be a resounding yes especially when the withholding of such information introduces a level of secrecy that is not in keeping with the good governance transparency principle expected of government and of public enterprises.In the case of Samoa Airways, the disclosure about the suspension of the airline’s sales manager is one of a series of news items that appear to have unintentionally found their way into the public arena.First, there was the disclosure of the airline’s financial position and the $6 million plus loss sustained in operating the new jet services. That was soon followed by disclosure of the salary of the airline’s CEO being hiked to a whopping $300,000 a year.Many questioned the wisdom and justification of the salary hike given the new airline’s precarious finances and other unresolved operating challenges. Even cabinet appears to have been in the dark about the increase with Minister Lautafi defending it while the prime minister publicly expressed an opposite view and concern.There’s been no word since whether the increase went into effect anyway.And then now, we learn (as of last week) that the airline has been without its sales manager, Fonoti Micheline Tauaa, a long serving senior staff member of Polynesian Airlines.It’s only a few weeks now since Samoa Airways hired a commercial manager from outside Samoa. This would mean that the suspended sales manager would have been a key member of the management team that has nurtured and navigated the airline through the inevitable turbulence of its unplanned birth and the challenges of getting it off the ground quickly.In fact, Fonoti Micheline Tauaa may also have been the most senior member of that team with any  practical experience in operating airline services and with intimate knowledge of Samoa’s local and overseas markets.In the circumstances, and given the cut-throat competition in the airline world and the scarcity of airline expertise in Samoa, one can only wonder at the decision to go without the services of the airline’s sale manager, and about the motives for doing so at such a crucial time for the new airline.The pending investigation should help provide answers. Which still leaves the question of why the secrecy surrounding Samoa Airways’ affairs.  It is said of war that it is too important to be left to the generals. And so it is with running airlines with taxpayers’ money in light of Samoa’s past experience with Polynesian Airline, where left largely to their own devices, persons in positions of authority ran the national airline to the ground and along with it the nation’s finances and Samoa’s good name.One sees the signs of a similar crash and burn happening again, which would be a sure sign of madness and a disaster that need not happen.AF Mapusua

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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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