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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Dec. 21) - After 12 years with Polynesian Airlines, the company's chief executive officer Malopaia John Fitzgerald resigned earlier this month because of his disagreement with the Samoa government over the airline's affairs.

Malopaia notified the Minister of Polynesian Airlines, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the incoming and outgoing chairmen of the airline and its directors of his resignation early this month. His resignation takes effect on Jan. 31, 2006.

The main reason he's leaving concerns the scaling down of Polynesian operations by the effective transfer of its international jet operation to Polynesian Blue, a joint venture between the government of Samoa and Australia's Virgin Blue airline.

"I hasten to add that I am a firm supporter of the Government of Samoas' partial privatization policies - including in respect of aviation services in Samoa - and I have great respect for Virgin Blue and its achievements as a low cost carrier," said Malopaia.

"However, it is fair to say that I did have differences of opinion with the government of Samoa representatives and advisers in respect of the 2004 studies - that preceded the partial privatization discussions held with interested parties - and also on several aspects of the process leading up to the establishment of the joint venture."

Malopaia added, "Having weighed up whether or not I wanted to continue with the remaining operations of Polynesian I thought it best to move on to new challenges and to allow an incoming CEO to work with any newly appointed board to lead the airline into the future."

With Polynesian Blue taking over international jet service, Polynesian Airlines is now concentrating on regional service, with additional flights to Nukualofa and Vavau in Tonga and recently to Niue as well as the inter-Samoa routes.

Malopaia's resignation brings to an end his 12-year association with Polynesian, first as an advisor at the board level, followed by the last six years as an executive with the company. Malopaia served as Polynesian's chief financial officer before taking over the CEO post almost three years ago.

Since taking over the CEO post in February 2003, Malopaia said "it has been a privilege for me to work with such a talented and dedicated team of professionals at Polynesian to again restore the airline to profitability."

"I am proud to say that - with a profit likely to be reported in excess of WS$4 million (about US$1.3 million) in 2004/05 - we have achieved that goal a full two years ahead of our corporate plan target," he said. "That goal was achieved due completely to the financial sacrifices made and dedication shown by the great majority of the airline's management and staff."

Malopaia said he will miss many of the company's employees when he leaves, but many of them have been made redundant in the scaled down business and some have already left Polynesian, while others will leave during January and later.

Many of let-go employees were out of the company's Apia headquarters, said sources.

Malopaia has no firm commitment yet for the future. He has been living in Samoa for the past 14 years "and has a great love for the country, its people and the fa'a Samoa." He prefers living in Samoa but said he and his family may move abroad for a few years.

"It would always be my intention to return home as soon as possible though," said Malopaia, a frequent visitor to the territory.

As for the CEO position, Malopaia said the airline has been advertising the post internally and externally and an appointment is expected to be made by early to mid January, "to allow for as smooth and rapid a transition as possible."

December 22, 2005

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