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Leadership blowup blows over

By Aigaletaulele’a F. Tauafiafi APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Aug. 18, 2010) - Sagaga le Usoga MP Muagututagata Peter Ah Him was unanimously reinstated as President of the Samoa Red Cross Society, yesterday.

During a press conference, the heads of the two factions, Muagututagata and Faleao Maka Sapolu shook hands in a symbol of unity.

At the same time outside, Blood Officer Babey Suniula jumped up and down with glee as things returned to normal.

Fresh from a second meeting with the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Muagututagta announced, "We have met and decided for the old board to continue together with the re-instatement of Secretary General Namulauulu Tautala Mauala.

"Faleao and his committee will become special advisors to the board."

For the General Assembly voted Interim Committee, Faleao agreed but was guarded as to the way forward.

"Let’s be clear, today’s key achievement is that we agreed [put differences aside] to work together," he said. "Namulauulu is back to work, Red Cross staff and volunteers are back. Those who were guarding the premises [during the impasse] are now off.

"For our meeting held last Friday, your decisions and voice has been heard. What has happened today and the decision we’ve reached, is about the integrity and protecting the reputation of Samoa Red Cross, at all costs."

There were many issues raised over the past five days. The most pressing concern is the WST8.05 million [US$3 million] funding assistance.

President Muagututagata was quick to allay fears.

"The issue of the WST8.05million is it’s clear that the end of this month we need to get our answer. We have another two weeks to go and we will meet that deadline and we will get the funding that’s allocated to us."

In a letter obtained by the Samoa Observer written by the Samoa Earthquake/Tsunami Recovery Coordinator, Erin Cornish, to the Red Cross, it said reports that "an agreed upon plant for unspent tsunami funds must be received by the Federation by August 31st or those funds will be lost" are incorrect.

"August 31st was an internal guideline for planning," the letter said. "There is no suggestion that funds would be diverted should a plan not be received by that time. We suggest a new timeline be negotiated given the current circumstances of Samoa Red Cross to ensure a well-considered plan."

The letter was copied to Faleao, Muagututagata and Tuilaepa.

Other concerns tabled by the General Assembly included misappropriation of funds, conflict of interest, misuse of the Society’s properties for personal gain was promised to be investigated through a commission of enquiries.

Now under the new regime, "There won’t be a commission of enquiry. The two committees will work through this themselves," said Muagututagata.

Although these have been put to the back burner, Faleao told the press conference those issues will not be left untended.

"There are issues still to be resolved and we will need to work through them. The President knows why we were not satisfied and he’s agreed those concerns will be looked into. Simply put, they will be worked out."

Under the renewed arrangements reached yesterday, the Samoa Red Cross Society is back to business with Namulauulu Tautala Mauala at the operational helm.

Policy making and direction will be provided by President Muagututagata and his Board but is now backed up by the advisory role of Faleao Maka Sapolu and his Committee. This is something President Muagututagata is very happy with.

"He [Faleao] has a big role to play in the SRCS in terms of knowledge, mentoring and advice. In the past he was also the CEO so he has the experience and institutional memory we can call on to fill the gaps and help with the work in front of us," said Muagututagata.

The important thing according to Faleao, "is we are at peace and togetherness. Today is not about who won, if someone thinks that way then we’re in trouble but I don’t believe that’s the case.

"Today is about is more than victory it’s about the conquest made by people for preservations of peace and what’s good about humanity.

"Sure there are contestable issues we discussed and it’s of vital important for me and our committee that we uphold these issues so that the SRCS and its staff know why they do what they do, what it is and who it is that they’re working for." [Not sure to edit this speech!]

Yesterday was a first step.

"Now that it’s over I’m looking forward to working again," said Babey Suniula. "I’m the person that processes the donated blood, categorize and process blood for the hospitals. Even though I was down about what was going on, it’s now really good to know for sure things are ok with Namulauulu and the rest of the staff."

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