Samoa Observer

APIA, Samoa (Sept. 21, 2009 ) – It’s distressing to realise that there are always people ready and even eager to profit from the tragedies that befall others.

Like everywhere else, unfortunately, Samoa has its share of such individuals.

Look at what happened during the Tanoa Tuisitala fire disaster last Wednesday.

While the overwhelming majority of those present – managers, employees, contractors and plain passers-by - saw it as their first duty to help in any way possible, a few saw it as an opportunity to steal while honest people’s attention was diverted.

It’s called looting and it’s a quite horrific and inhuman act.

No doubt the primary focus of the police investigation is the origin of the blaze that all but destroyed a dream, but if those who took advantage of the inferno to steal could be brought to justice it would send a very strong message to those who are of like mind.

There’s no list of missing items as yet, it seems, but anecdotal evidence suggests the looting was serious enough. What could be carried off was.

That said, the outpouring of sympathy and support from the government and the people of Samoa has been much more than impressive. For there was a deal of excitement about the Tanoa Tusitala renovation – and not only among the business community.

For it represented (and still does) overseas confidence in Samoa in the form of investment of hard cash. Let’s be under no illusions here. Businesses such as the Reddy Group didn’t get to where they are by being sentimental. These are hard headed businessmen and women who put emotion aside when deciding where and how they invest their funds.

However, once committed to a project there tends to be total support for it.

That’s how it was for the Reddy Group’s Tanoa Tusitala project which was on the verge of reopening for business when disaster struck last Wednesday morning.

That’s when a multi-million tala investment went up in smoke and flames.

But it’s not the end of the story. As local police and overseas forensic experts combed through the ashes of a dream, the man behind the project declared that he’s not beaten – not by a long way.

Chairman of the Reddy Group Y.P. Reddy told this newspaper yesterday that he remained committed to the job of finishing what he started in Samoa regardless of this shattering setback.

"When this job will eventually be completed (the group originally planned to be open for business in November) is anyone’s guess at this stage but some time in the latter part of 2010 is not out of the question …," he said.

So the project may be set back for a year in time and untold millions in cash – but at least it will still happen which is good for Samoa.

The Reddy Group’s determination to finish what it started will reassure other potential investors that the economic, political and social climate in Samoa is still conducive to success, that we are still a desirable, safe and secure investment destination.

Samoa is today presented with a golden opportunity to expand its tourism industry – but in order to do so it needs more projects such as the Tanoa Tusitala. For as the tourism arrival rate steadily climbs, so too does the pressure to find or build places for those tourists to sleep.

It would be a great pity if tourism growth were constrained by a shortage of accommodation which, again, is why the continuation and completion of the Tanoa Tusitala is vital.

Mr Reddy and his team deserve all the support and encouragement we can give them. What they are doing is no doubt good for the Reddy Group – they are after all business people – but it’s equally good for Samoa and we shouldn’t forget that.

Neither should we forget the thieves who took cruel advantage of this tragedy. Let’s hope their time will come too.

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