Pacific Media Watch

17 September 2012

SAMOA: PM to Samoa Observer: 'Your stories don't make any sense'

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Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Fatialofa Sailele Malielegaoi ... war of words with Samoa Observer editor-in-chief Savea Sano Malifa. Image: Savali

APIA (Samoa Observer / Pacific Media Watch):




Editor Samoa Observer,
Lober Industries Building,

Hello and thank you for your continuing reporting role in our little democracy.

But I thought I would give you some timely tips for improvements’ sake in your work. Especially the editing part of your English publications as I think it has noticeably fallen in standards in recent times.

It is very important to report accurately what I said in Samoan as it is read across the globe on your website.

Just about every single story you publish, I have been quoted out of context. I conduct my interviews always in our cherished Samoanlanguage as every Samoan ought to value the tongue.

So when your reporters translate my words in English, it is either the complete polar opposite of what I actually said in Samoan or the article, in many parts, do not make any darn sense.

In reality, the quotations attributed to me are actually the futile translating attempts of your under-aged reporters which throws the whole article in a state of confusion. It is their words, not mine.

If you are lacking a good English editor, as many have noticed, I can advise Tupuola Terry Tavita of Savali to extend his Good Samaritan work to improve Samoa Observer standards.

I particularly want to thank you for my lovely photo on your front page yesterday, 10 September 2012 - notably my matching suit pants I wore at one of the international meetings overseas I attended and was used for your story focusing on a local issue. I guess you want to project overseas that this is what I actually wear every day in Samoa. You and I know very well Samoa is very hot and not only do you get very sweaty wearing long pants but our rabid mosquitoes will eat you alive.

My only advice is, if it is an international meeting story, feel free to use my long pants’ photo. If it is a local one, put up a local photo of me which I’m sure you have a whole archive of. I’m convinced that is the balanced reporting you are often alluding to. Your reporters after all snap numerous photos of me at my office every time they turn up for a chat.

But anyway, I suspect you were scavenging for the ugliest photo of me around right? Actually Savea, I think I am way too handsome in that photo. I am now also certain that you are only after publishing my ugly photos so you can justify why you named me your “Star of the Decade” a couple of years ago. I am so unworthy.

That is enough for now. God bless your good work that has made you grow old gracefully and, well, comfortably.


Tuilaepa Fatialofa Sailele Malielegaoi,
Prime Minister, Samoa.


Talofa i Lau Afioga i le Ali’i Palemia,
Lau Afioga Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

Thank you very much for your kind advice. It is always a pleasure receiving a letter from you knowing that you have so much work on your plate these days.

And now that you’ve added the Legislative Assembly to your list of portfolios, well, I’m wondering how on earth you can possibly make the time to write all these letters.

I personally would like to congratulate you for your patience, and especially for your ability to just shrug off all those silly criticisms leveled at you, as insignificant ravings of madmen, fools and idiots.

You are absolutely right. Because that, precisely, is the mark of a man with an honorable vision for his country which he is determined to fulfill, despite what anyone else says.

I truly admire you for that.

As for the “mistakes” and the “inaccuracies” in this newspaper’s stories that you’re seeing all the time, well, I want to say thank you for pointing these things out to us.

It’s a shame really, but then I just don’t know what the answer is. I only wish we were all perfect and flawless like you and Terry Tavita but the truth is that we are not.

Still, I want to say I apologiSe unequivocally for all the idiotic mistakes you see in the paper day after day. Honestly I have no excuses to offer.

I am sorry also that this paper’s “the English publications (have) noticeably fallen in standards in recent times” due to poor editing, but I want to remind you that it is the very high VAGST, import duties and taxes combined, that are directly responsible.

So if you want to see that what you say during an interview is “read (accurately) across the globe” on this newspaper’s website, you should do two things:

1. Lower the VAGST on newsprint, film, plates, computers, cameras and voice recorders from 15 percent to 5 percent, as it is the case in other Pacific Island countries, where all newspapers are considered an educational necessity.

2. If you want your interview to be published on the website, make sure you speak in English. This way, since your interview is now captured in the voice recorder, no translation is needed and every sentence you utter therefore will make “darn (good) sense.”

As for your offer of Tupuola Terry Tavita to work with us we have to say no thanks. Please don’t get me wrong. I only wish you did not bring this name up. For someone who is known around the world as your “lapdog,” how can you possibly say you’re extending “his Good Samaritan … standards,” when we know the man has no principles whatsoever.

Let me tell you a story. Several years ago Tavita came asking for a job. He said he had been a teacher at Samoa College, and he wanted to work as a reporter. Why did he leave Samoa College, I asked. He did not give a credible explanation.

Anyway, I gave him a job. He became a reporter. Sometime later, he approached me again and said he had been given a scholarship to do his Masters at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, and he wanted time off from work.

I gave him time off. Later still when he returned from Suva, he came back to work. Asked if he had finished his Masters, he said yes, but he had to finish his thesis.

Well, what do you want to do, work or finish your thesis? He wanted to work, so I gave him work. Again.

At the time, we had a policy – we still have it – that no reporter conducting an interview at any function – public or otherwise - helped himself to food and drinks if such were served.

The rule is that when the interview is done and the photos are taken, the reporter leaves. In those days, all of our reporters respected this rule except Terry Tavita.

Since he would not leave until he was fed and soused, we gave him money for his drinks somewhere else, on the understanding that he left the function immediately after his interview.

Later still, he had an argument with the paper’s editor at the time, Peter Lomas, and Terry Tavita stormed out the door. He did not have the decency to come and tell me what his quarrel with Lomas was about.

I felt let down and sad.

Later still I was told that he went straight to Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s office, and he was hired to work for the Savali. You know the rest.

And then he started attacking me in the Savali, which is a government paper funded with my taxes. I never said a word.

Since then he has been developing a defiant standard of reporting in defense of his “boss” – Tuilaepa – so that he inevitably earned the unflattering moniker “lapdog” among his media colleagues.

And you want him to come and work as a “good Samaritan “ in this paper? No, thank you very much. Keep him there. You need someone like him to defend you and protect you.

As for your worries about the clothes you’re wearing when your picture is taken, well, honestly you should not. Personally, I don’t care about what clothes I’m wearing anyway. If it hadn’t been for common decency and the fear of disturbing the peace, I would go around with what I was born with.

I reckon you should think the same way too. Besides, clothes are just skin-deep. It is what’s inside you that count. I know you’ve got a good heart and that is all that matters. Trust me. The rest is all rubbish thrashed about in the wind.

And lastly Tuilaepa, you are a handsome man. We all know that. You are handsome both outside and inside. So that wherever in the world your photo is taken, it is published and your fame is assured. And always remember that it is not the photo that counts but the man behind the photo.

So don’t be paranoid. You are still our “Man of the Decade” whether you believe me or not. And that’s the naked truth.

But thank you for your kind words about my “growing old gracefully and, well, comfortably.” I know. I’m finding it rather hard not being able to grow old fast enough. Which is why I must thank you once again for those mind-wrecking court cases that sort of really hastened the aging process along.

God bless you too Tuilaepa.

Sincerely yours,
Savea Sano Malifa


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