Samoa PM Responds To Aussie TV Show ‘Paradise Lost’

Office of the Prime Minister
Apia, Samoa

July 19, 2016

On Monday, 4th July 2016, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi granted an interview with the 60 Minutes Television Crew from Australia who had requested comment from government on the Lauititi Tualima case, which was before the Court; and on security concerns and services at Tafa'igata Prison. 

Last night (Sunday) the 60 Minutes segment aired in Australia and of the 13 minutes of story, less than two minutes were given to the Prime Minister's responses.

The Prime Minister, whose office is always open to the media, interviewed for more than half an hour with the team from 60 Minutes.

The Prime Minister wishes to clarify issues that have been raised by the TV programme, especially by members of the public via social media, the main points of which are outlined below.

  • Government has allocated funding in the current budget, for the new Prison, and work has already started to clear the land and begin the project.
  • The prisoner Lauititi Tualima has pleaded guilty to all charges, and is due for sentencing this week.  He is kept in maximum security at Tafaigata. 
  • There are no prisoners currently unaccounted for and despite misinformation perpetuated by false reports, this is not a regular occurrence for Samoa.  The rise in escapes were mostly during the time of Prison reforms when the Police Services and Prisons Services were undergoing separation. 
  • Tafaigata Prison has successfully kept almost all prisoners within the boundaries of the prison wall, with the exception of a few unrepentant criminals. Despite the actions of a few rogue individuals, the majority of the prison population are peaceful. 
  • Samoa's Prisons and Correction Services has already begun implementing a programme of rehabilitation for prisoners.  
  • These programmes are in the form of vocational training, counseling, educational, health and spiritual programmes.  These have been introduced to provide a positive pathway for prisoners so they can better reintegrate back in to their families and communities without resorting to a life of crime.
  • The implementation of Australian Aid to Samoa, especially for the Samoa Police, is well-documented and publicised by the Australian High Commission in Samoa, as well as through media campaigns and coverage to raise awareness of the ongoing developments, capacity-building and resourcing.  The allocation of donor funds is a two-way agreement between the donor agency and government.  Deciding where funding is to be allocated is not up to one party alone.
  • Tourism is an economic mainstay for Samoa, and for the most part every Samoan is protective and respectful of all visitors and holidaymakers who spend time in our country.
  • But as in any other society, there are always going to be good and bad people. In an unfortunate and very sad turn of events for the Australian couple who were holidaying in Samoa, they were attacked by a convict and subjected to a harrowing experience that has been utilized to maximum effect by the 60 Minutes Television show.
  • This is the first time a case like this has happened in Samoa, and the outrage felt by viewers of the 60 Minutes Television show is the same outrage and anger felt by the people of Samoa.  This is an isolated incident, caused by a career-criminal, and from which many lessons for the future have been learned.

As a country that has recently graduated from Least Developing Country status, Samoa is working hard towards improving state services so they are befitting of a Lower to Middle Income Status country. 

Samoa's development agenda has been set out, and ensuring attention is given to hundreds of priority areas can be a challenge when faced with a tight budget.  

As Cabinet showed almost three years ago when it approved the Commission of Inquiry in to Tafaigata Prison - and its subsequent report which highlighted issues that were eventually addressed - once problems have been identified, government does not hesitate to make the necessary changes to raise standards and improve services.  

Samoa continues to improve its methodology and public safety is of paramount concern.

As the Prime Minister made clear in his interview with 60 Minutes, Samoa is not the same as Australia, and to compare the two governments in size, systems and budget is simplistic and naive.  

Samoa has its own set of priority areas, and they are not without their challenges and harsh lessons.  

Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and improve for the future, and that is the approach of government as issues such as these come to light. 

Unfortunately, the portrayal of the Prime Minister was skewed to fit in with the 60 Minutes Television Show's angle of diminishing Samoa's efforts at improving Prison systems, infrastructure and processes; and in painting Samoa as a dangerous tourism destination.

This could not be further from the truth.  

Samoa remains a peaceful and safe destination for visitors and tourists. 

Government agencies continue to work together with village councils to provide safe and secure communities for the public and our visitors and tourists.  

Government intends to work hard over the next twelve months to ensure that there is no more delay with construction of the new prison, and in light of this, an invitation was extended to the 60 Minutes team to visit Samoa in June 2017 for a follow-up story on the new prison, and to update on Samoa's development efforts.

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Watching the 60 minute interview, the Prime Minister is not fit to run or speak on behalf of Samoa. His comments to the situation in the interview left Samoans embarrassed that this is the top representative for Samoa. His comments like"they shouldn't have gone there" demonstrates his ignorance on the matter. Where they went as pointed out was a Tourist location! if tourism is your main industry then do everything you can to protect it! don't mumble on TV that you shouldn't have gone there, were there signs to stay away from these areas...I doubt it. The victims were gracious enough even after their ordeal to give praise about their initial holiday experience as being positive up till the incident. More was needed to be said by the Prime Minister on how Samoa was going to handle the situation on 60 Minutes which has an audience in the millions not in articles after the fact. This Prime Minister needs to go, the corruption of overseas funding also needs to stop in Samoa. You talk about bridging the poverty gap to a middle income status country, well change comes from the top. You can't improve standard of living and public facilities when money from foreign aid and other sources are disappearing into politicians pockets. There needs to be an independent audit of the Government's finances with transparency and accountability. Until then the decline of trust will continue between the people and the Government.

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