Poor Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malilelegaoi! Why is it that he’s the one who is always copping the flak, and yet it is those he’s appointed to get the job done who have loused everything up anyway?
For instance, on the front page of the Samoa Observer on Tuesday, 13 March 2018, the headline screamed: “Stupid,” P.M. slams Samoa Airways report.
So what’s gone wrong with Tuilaepa’s baby, Samoa Airways? Indeed, why is he calling everyone “stupid” at a time when he should be celebrating, now that he’s got Samoa Airways to replace his other baby, defunct Polynesian Airlines, that had gone bankrupt way back there in 1999?
In yesterday’s Samoa Observer though, where he was discussing Samoa Airways, he revealed: “Since we put up our airline, the reality is that we now have affordable airfares for our people, which would never have happened if we did not fly our Samoa Airways.”
And why did he change his airline’s name from Polynesian Airlines to Samoa Airways?
Tuilepa explained: “Polynesian can refer to any country. It may be referred to as Tokelau or Easter Island, which is why we threw away that useless label that has no identity.”
He also said: “We put in Samoa Airways there to reflect that this beautiful airline is owned by us, Samoans, not some vague label that might be taken as owned by the Lau Group of Fiji.”
But why is the emphasis on “the Lau Group of Fiji?”
Is there a reason? Tuilaepa did not say.
All we know is that the Fijian government’s airline, Air Pacific, has been flying to major cities all over the world all these years, and not once had there been a report that suggested it had been involved in any scandal of a fraudulent nature.
As for Tuilaepa, now referring one more time to the Samoa Observer’s front page, he said: “I hope this is the last nonsense I read from this great newspaper.”
And then after accusing the paper of confusing readers, he said, as he was laughing: “Lastly, I love you all fa’alausoso’o*
Whatever he meant though matters not.
Our only concern is that he was there when Polynesian Airlines was allowed to become bankrupt and yet he did nothing to stop it.
And now that he’s started a new airline, and he’s calling it Samoa Airways, the worry is that the fear of this one also becoming bankrupt - taking into account the lackadaisical manner in which it is being managed today - seems quite inevitable, and for that very reason, we just cannot sit back and watch this little fracas as it’s whittling away.
Which is why we are republishing here the reasons Polynesian Airlines had gone bankrupt, so as to warn the government of the so-called Human Rights Protection Party today, that it would be a shameful affront to the people of this country if one of these days, they would be told that Samoa Airways, like Polynesian Airlines, had also gone bankrupt.
Indeed such an eventuality would be an utter shame.
“Nothing illegal” says deputy C.E.O.
16 February 1999
Polynesian Airlines senior staff numbering 21 were allegedly made advances and allowances totalling $720,605 in 1997 and 1998.
A leaked document lists 99 separate advances detailing what they were for, the dates they were made, and relevant cheque numbers.
In an interview yesterday, the airline’s deputy chief executive officer, Leaupepe Sanerivi Muliaumaseali’i, in the company of manager of finance and administration, Sala Petelo Vaioulu, confirmed the document was authentic. “This is ours”, he said.
Leaupepe tops the list with total of $254,750 in advances, allowances and board meeting dues. Second is Sala with a total of $201,621; third is Falaniko Malaki with a total of $29,000.
Chief Executive Officer, Richard Gates, is seventh with “$NZ12,000 ($T18,000) for November 1997- June 1998 for entertainment ($NZ10,000 p.a.x 8 months), educational ($NZ5,000 pa x 8 months), and personal allowance for July 97-June 98 ($T3,000).”
Leaupepe said again yesterday there was “nothing illegal” about the advances and allowances, explaining that they were included in the officers contracts.
The manner in which they were given, as shown by the document however suggest that for many of them, no set procedures was followed, and that there was no ceiling to the period allowed.
For instance, two advances of $21,000 each were made on 17 June 1998 to Leaupepe for the second and third quarters of 1999-2000.
On 28 July 1998, an advance of $21,000 was made to Leaupepe for the final quarter of 1999-2000.
Similarly, an advance of $18,175 was made to Sala on 7 August 1998 for the third quarter of 1999-2000.
Asked for a comment by Samoa Observer editor, Aumuagaolo Ropeti Ale last Friday, Gates would not at first. He threatened instead to “take legal action” if a story on the list was published. “Is this all you do?” he asked. “Why don’t you go look at the ANZ books instead?”
Aumuagaolo said he told Gates that “ANZ was owned by Shareholders” – whereas Polynesian Airlines was owned by the people of Samoa, and he was duty-bound to inquire for the public interest.
The editor also told Gates that he thought he was doing the responsible thing by coming to him for a comment. Gates then apparently calmed down and agreed to talk but “off the record”. This they did.
Aumuagaolo said he assured Gates that all he wanted was to give him the chance to comment Gates then went away and soon returned with deputy C.E.O., Leaupepe, who Gates introduced as our legal counsel.”
According to Aumuagaolo, Leaupepe said there was “nothing illegal about it” (the advanced allowances).
When he was leaked a copy of the list, Aumuagaolo set up an appointment with P.A.L. board member and Financial Secretary, Sala Epa Tuioti, to discuss it. Sala was provided with a copy of the document and was also asked for a comment.
But Sala advised that Gates and Leaupepe were the right officers to speak to. The editor then set up his appointment with Gates last week Friday.
But even if there was “nothing illegal” about these advances and allowances, they are very much a matter of public interest.
Some of them are huge by local standards, they are regularly granted, and for purposes which immediately arouse curiosity. For instance, there are personal allowances, educational allowances, transportation and entertainment allowances, student allowances, housing allowances, installment and advance allowances some of them for well into 1999 and 2000.