Proposed Switch To Metric System In Samoa Sparks Angry Debate

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Deputy PM accuses opposition of always opposing change

By Mata’afa Keni Lesa

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, March 26, 2014) – The government’s plan to change the measurement system being used from the imperial to the metric system sparked a furious exchange between the government and the opposition party yesterday.

The debate took place in Parliament when Acting Prime Minister, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, tabled a bill to make the change happen.

The bill proposes to do away with the use of pounds to measure goods, as basic such as sugar, flour and salt.

Kilogrammes are to be used if the bill is passed into law.

Unhappy about the Tautua Samoa Party’s persistent line of questions about the Bill, Fonotoe accused the opposition of being a bunch of politicians who always oppose change.

"They don't want to change anything," Fonotoe said. "We have to move with the times, we cannot stand still."

This angered Opposition leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II.

"Mr. Speaker," he said, "this is a serious allegation about this party, saying we refuse to accept change."

Looking to Fonotoe, he retorted: "Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, we only accept changes when they are appropriate."

Palusalue said the government has introduced many silly changes.

"Look at day light savings," he said. "What’s your observation of what’s happening now, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister?"

Palusalue said people are suffering as a "result of that change." Speaker, La’auli Leuatea Polata’ivao, intervened.

"What’s already been approved in Parliament shouldn't be spoken about anymore," he said.

"But I’m using it as an example," Palusalue responded. The Speaker disagreed and he stopped Palusalue.

Said he, "In relation to the change of times, the law has been passed and it has already been implemented and yet you are still complaining."

But Palusalue wouldn't let up.

"Mr. Speaker, the allegation from the Deputy Prime Minister that this side refuses to accept change is serious. That’s why I’m objecting. He added: "No we are not afraid of changes when they are appropriate."

Fonotoe insisted that Palusalue is always opposed to changes. He said the Opposition leader always wants to keep the status quo.

"That’s even after the government has given all the reasons why things should be changed.

"There is nothing wrong with the reasons we’ve given about why we need to change."

Faleata West MP, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, who had earlier criticised the Bill, rejoined the debate.

"Mr. Speaker, this is the 15th bill we’ve discussed today and this is the first bill I’m objecting to."

He reminded that the "Member from Faleata is not foolish. He went on scholarship to Australia twice because he’s smart."

That drew a reaction from the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Le Mamea Ropati Mualia. "I feel sorry for my brother," he said about Leala.

"I’ve already said that he’s one of the most intelligent M.P.’s in the house and he’s just told us himself that he is foolish.

"No one said he was foolish, he’s clever. I don't know about Solomon’s wisdom if he could match his…" But Lealailepule was not convinced.

"What if you can only afford a pound?" he asked.

"So what happens if you can’t afford a kilo? The poor will suffer."

Minister of Communications, Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau, said the shopkeepers are not stupid.

"They will bring it down to half a kilo so that their customers will be able to afford it."

Leala liked the idea.

"The Minister has picked up on exactly what I’m trying to say," he said. "We are the smartest people in the world since we trade with pounds and kilos."

Addressing Fonotoe, Leala said: "We (Tautua) don't oppose change, it’s forbidden." As for Le Mamea, Leala thanked him for the compliment. He joked that when he was in school, "I did not have a rubber, I made no mistake."

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