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Tuilaepa’s a coward, Campbell’s a liar

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Oct. 29, 2010) – Journalist John Campbell of Campbell Live has labeled Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi a "coward" after he "pulled out" of an interview at the 11th hour.

[PIR editor’s note: Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has been the Prime Minister for Samoa since 1998.He is also a member of the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) and the former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance under former Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana.]

The New Zealand (NZ) Journalist from TV3 said he had a standing arrangement to interview the Prime Minister at 11am last Wednesday.

He said this was confirmed by email.

He said, however, the Prime Minister cancelled the interview once his team was on Samoan soil at 6pm on Tuesday evening.

"We had a formal agreement (for an interview), Mr. Campbell said. This is a man who has slugged us off for the past month. He slugged us off on Samoan TV, on NZ TV and on Australian radio and Australia hasn’t even seen the story. When it comes to the crunch he is too much of a coward to do an interview he pulled out at the last moment. It’s a disgrace. Don’t say it about us when you can’t say it to us."

Mr. Campbell said the reason he flew back to Samoa was because the Prime Minister accused him of not presenting the Samoan Government’s side of the story.

"So we fly back up to give him that opportunity to go on the record to tell his side of the story, to give him the opportunity to say whatever he wants and what does he do? He cancels at 6pm the night before. The people of Samoa should ask why? Why did he do this? Why won’t he tell the government’s side of the story? When we are prepared to fly up to present with this opportunity, he runs. Why?"

Mr. Campbell said he would not have flown up if there wasn’t an express agreement between the two parties.

"You know we are not the BBC, we don’t have infinite resources, he said. It is a big deal to fly a team anywhere but everyone here was on board with this interview. So we flew up on Sunday for the interview at 11am (Wednesday) and he cancels the night before."

However, the Prime Minister was adamant that the meeting with Mr. Campbell was on November 4, saying Mr. Campbell asked for that date.

"And as is the practice for normal people, you request a meeting with me and I reply that you can come at this allocated time, the Prime Minister said. But for Campbell, he sent his request and then he came straight away. Maybe he has done the same thing in other countries. So what I’m trying to do is to educate him in the way of how civilized people behave."

The Prime Minister said he heard Mr. Campbell was here on an unrelated job and so he told him: "Go and do that and when you finished go and prepare for our meeting because I’m busy from 11pm tonight right up to November 3 so I’m free on the 4th".

The Prime Minister said on November 4 he was prepared to show Mr. Campbell all the work that had been done in the tsunami affected areas.

"Mr. Campbell just doesn’t understand what is happening in Samoa. And we will take with us this young boy from the Observer, what’s his name, yes Mataafa Keni. I’m also asking Keni to get his shoes and be ready to walk up the mountain so that his eyes can see what’s been done. We need to take him for a walk because even him, he doesn’t know what’s been done. He is just bellowing things overseas."

The Prime Minister said this proposed tour must be filmed by local TV stations as he is of the belief that Mr. Campbell doctored his tsunami news item.

He said if the TV crews here film this then Mr. Campbell can return to NZ and put whatever he wants to air.

"But we will also put together our footage which can be sent to TV stations in NZ and Australia."

The Prime Minister said it was reports by the Samoa Observer’s Editor that misled Mr. Campbell in the first place.

He said that while Mata’afa misled Mr. Campbell in the first place, he allowed himself to be taken in by Mr. Campbell’s subsequent reports on the tsunami recovery.

"So now Keni’s ignorance has misled Campbell."

The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to brand this newspaper’s editor a "liar".

"I’ll take him, (Mr. Campbell) by the hand and lead him because he said he went and saw but I don’t agree with him because he is a liar. If he lied the first time then we can’t allow him to repeat his lies. The problem with Mr. Campbell’s lies now has also made Keni become a liar as well."

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