Savali Newspaper Editor’s Professionalism Criticized In Samoa

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Savali Newspaper Editor’s Professionalism Criticized In Samoa Cabinet ministry CEO claims Tupuola vocally abused his staff

By Sophie Budvietas

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Jan. 16, 2014) – The Editor of the Samoa Government's Savali newspaper, Tupuola Terry Tavita, has had his professionalism called into question by the Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ms. Vaosa Epa.

In a letter dated 04 December 2013 titled "Re: Dismissal of Niccola Hazelman-Siona and Other Related Matters," Ms. Epa raised concerns about what she described as "constant uncouth behaviour" and "use of abusive language" by Tupuola towards staff members.

The letter was addressed to Tupuola Terry Tavita. It was leaked to the Samoa Observer.

In it, Ms. Epa says she became so concerned with Tupuola's uncouth behaviour that she raised the matter with Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

[PIR editor’s note: The full text of the letter is provided here by the Samoa Observer.]

Ms. Epa wrote: "I will not try and prolong this correspondence unnecessarily by detailing every single incidence (sic) but suffice it to say that the trail of unhappy and disgruntled people affected and hurt by you, goes back to Rosie Afamasaga, Renate Rivers, Apaui Fuapepe Fesili, Sola Malele, Mamea Ulafala and now latterly Nicola Hazleman and Taunu’uga Toatasi."

"In fairness to you, I will admit that perhaps in a number of cases, what gives rise to the incidence (sic) in the first instant was not due to you but due to the staff ’s fault or insufficiency.

"However, what has been resoundingly clear in all these incidences was the level of professionalism you displayed in dealing with the people concerned whereby you not only use foul and swearing language, you openly demeaned and abused them in the presence of other staff members.

"Your male staff are finding it difficult to keep their own anger back particularly when you go off that way to the female staff, bearing in mind that we all have sisters whom you should treat respectfully."

The letter also questions the hiring practices of the Media and Communications Division at the Ministry. Ms. Epa wrote: "If you may recall, I have often raised the issue of putting in place proper processes for the recruitment of staff.

"I am mindful of the nature of appointments for both the Savali and the Press Secretariat but the institution of such processes will make the selection of staff fair and transparent.

"More importantly is the consideration of selection criteria and deliverables of positions you are advertising for, and a probation period that will provide you and Uale the opportunity to monitor and assess the performance of the new recruit – thus protecting yourselves from any legal action of wrongful dismissal."

Uale is the Press Secretary, Ualetenese Papali’i Taimalelagi. At the end of her letter, Ms. Epa made two recommendations.

"As you already know," she wrote, "I raised the above concerns with the Prime Minister, and as a way forward for all concerned, I make the following recommendations:

Asked for a comment yesterday, Tupuola said he has not read the letter from Ms. Epa.

"It hasn't been passed to me yet," he said. "I was overseas and I haven’t read it."

It was not possible to obtain a comment from Prime Minister Tuilaepa yesterday.

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