Minister Afamasaga criticises media over Cable queries

By Sina Filifilia Seva’aetasi ,

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Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i. 

The Minister of Communications and Information Technology (M.C.I.T.), Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, has expressed disappointment about questions raised by the media in relation to the Tui Samoa Cable and American Samoa.

He has asked that the media refrain from seeking information on the Tui Samoa Cable, as sensitive negotiations are ongoing.

“Please be patient,” he said. “Stop asking me questions about the commercial part of the deals. Otherwise, when they fall through, we will go back to square one.”

Speaking during the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting, the Minister blasted the Samoa Observer over a front-page story on Tuesday titled “ Cable Divides Samoas.” The story highlighted concerns by the American Samoa Governor, Lolo Matalasi Moliga, about the Cable and how it was presented to them.

The story agitated the Minister.

“As you saw my very ugly face on the front page of Samoa Observer, we are talking to American Samoa,” he said.

“I’m very mindful the media is here and they’ve been asking me questions all weekend. Unfortunately, you have to respect, when you sign an N.D.A. (non-disclosure agreement), with your partners, you can’t disclose commercial plans.”

“I ask you all, whoever is in the media that’s here, even the private sector, if we can just be patient for a little while. As I go through the discussions, you will find we are on a very critical path in terms of deals. Securing deals with our overseas partners.”

The Minister said Samoa has a lot to lose if these deals fall through.

 “If we disclose the commercial parts of these deals, there’s a very big risk that these discussions can fall out and then we’re back to square one.

“All of these discussions are ongoing at the moment and moving very fast.  

“The Samoa Submarine Cable Company and government are working hand in hand and we are operating in a very small window of opportunity, a very tiny window of opportunity that we are jumping in at the moment.”

The Minister also said the government had failed to submit a bid for a maintenance vessel on time because of “interruptions in the media.” 

“A little while ago, there was supposed to be a Cable ship offloading in our wharf,” he said. “That’s not happening. Unfortunately, they’ve decided to take it back to New Caledonia for their offloading. 

“As part of the Cable coming, we’re also trying to attract over the maintenance vessel.  There is a company called the “Submarine Cable Maintenance for the Pacific”.  There is a contract for ten years and the contract is up while they are in New Caledonia. 

“We are attracting them. We’re working hard with government and all other stakeholders, the Samoa Submarine Cable and Samoa Ports Authority to put together an offer.

“We passed the time when we had no offer because of all the interruptions that were in the media about the off loading of the Cable at the wharf.”

Afamasaga explained that Samoa has been granted another opportunity to submit a bid, which they are working on.

“Fortunately, we‘ve been granted another time frame for submissions. We have now until the end of the month of May to submit another offer,” he said. 

He highlighted the benefits that having the maintenance vessel docked in Samoa will bring to the country. 

“I can tell you when this boat comes to Samoa, it will be here for five years plus, it’s a ten year contract we’re looking for.  It brings to Samoa an equivalent of three million U.S. dollars to our economy in terms of berthing lease.

“We’re going to build a warehouse at the wharf to house all the spare parts of cables.

“Benefits to us is the funds injected into our economy.  One other benefit is that we’re going to have all this warehouse to house all the submarine cable spare parts.

“This is biggest benefit, it’s that if something goes wrong with the cable in Tuasivi or somewhere past Savai’i we only pay for the boat to come from here to the part where the service is interrupted.

“Currently, if we have the cable and the boat still anchors New Caledonia or Fiji or Hawaii, if something goes wrong with the cable, we have to pay for the boat to come from New Caledonia to fix our cable. Not only will there be a delay but it will be very costly for us. When that costs us, it affects the bottom line and that’s you.” 

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