For Immediate Release
05 March 2015
The Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, made the following statement regarding media queries on news reports that New Zealand is spying on Pacific neighbours:
“I’ve been informed today that the New Zealand government is alleged to be spying on Pacific Islands.
I am not privy to the article, but from questions that have been put to me by the media, I suppose it’s a disappointment to have to tell them that I don’t have any strong feelings about the allegations of spying.
The reason being is a difference in interpretation. Perhaps the media is trying to create a sensational newsbyte over the issue, but I don’t draw any differences between these allegations and an article that came out 18 years ago following the FEM meeting in Cairns, Australia, when I was the Finance and Economic Affairs Minister. Many days after the meeting when I was back in Samoa I received a phone call at 330am on a Sunday. I was asked what I felt about some media reports that had revealed confidential briefings on each delegate of a Pacific Forum country who was at the meeting, for the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Apparently some unflattering and outrageous observations were written about us, from the intelligence reports of the Australian Government, which I suppose was a fall-back position for the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs to tap in to should any of us prove difficult to handle during the meeting. This briefing for the Australian Minister was apparently misplaced and picked up by a reporter and immediately became fodder for frenzied media coverage. The reporter who called me up at 330am asked me for a comment, while I was still half asleep. I said, ‘What does the report say?’ and the reporter told me it said that Samoa’s Prime Minister Tofilau had made the observation that his Deputy has some rough edges to smooth out.
So it was only one negative comment about me, and sadly no positives. But I seemed to be the only one on the brief with the smallest amount of information.
Up to now, my rough edges still remain, which has become a kind of valuable asset for which I am appreciated by my enemies. I would never want to change that.
A brief is a brief and nothing more. When I was a public servant myself for many years, I also wrote briefs for my bosses. They are just briefs – to be used or to be laughed at.
I was asked if I had any more comments to make, and I said ‘No, I’m going back to sleep’. But my counterparts mentioned in the brief did not take kindly to the revelations, and probably lost some sleep over it.
With all these allegations of spying, there is a more respectable term that the diplomatic community is used to – diplomacy. When any country sets up a High Commission or Embassy, the High Commissioner or Ambassador is the eyes and ears for their home governments, and report on what’s happening locally, whether it’s important or pure garbage!
For instance should there be reported street violence in Samoa, the citizen journalists through social media will report sensationally and immediately with no regard for firm facts or proper checks, so eighty-five percent of the time it’s wrong. But the intelligence services or the diplomats of Australia and New Zealand, or any other mission based here in Samoa, will report back to their governments and set the record straight. They are professional, thorough and well-trained to analyse situations in their place of posting. So governments, with their diplomatic representatives in Samoa, are well informed of daily events and what’s happening in the country.
Samoa doesn’t have anything to hide. Our daily lives are an open book. We follow good governance principles of Transparency and Accountability.
As the leader of this country I maintain frank and open lines of communication with all our diplomatic connections. Where there are concerns and problems – I will be sure to voice them, and when there are benefits or positive outcomes, I will be equally as vocal.
Whatever diplomats have reported to their home countries, we welcome them to it because we have nothing to hide and their bosses will learn more about Samoa. We are not a security risk to any small island nearby and I’m sure the phone conversations by any old matai to his son in New Zealand for a taulaga envelope will not be of interest to the FBI of the great U.S.A. In fact, the diplomats reporting from Samoa would no doubt be sending back information saying we treat them well and we love them, as we love our brothers and our neighbours in Fiji and Tonga, from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet.”