NZ Labour MP regrets comments

Su'a William Sio in the middle photographed with former MP Luamanuvao Winnie Laban & long serving Cabinet Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA: 04 June 2012: The Mangere Labour Member of Parliament Su’a William Sio has regretted the comments he made publicly regarding Samoans traveling to fundraise in New Zealand that led to anger Samoan MP Tuilo’a Anetele’a who was in Auckland with constituents to raise funds for a district hospital in Safotu, Savai’i.

Speaking to Talamua in Apia where he was part of the New Zealand delegation to Samoa’s 50th Independence celebrations, Su’a said the Samoan community in NZ feels obligated to contribute to these fundraising and the burden on families had taken a stressful turn.

“Families feel that whenever a village, youth or church groups are fundraising in NZ, they must contribute, despite the little money they themselves have,” Su’a said.

The comments aired on a Samoa radio station in Auckland a day before the fundraising anger MP Tuilo’a who felt the comments were directed at their own fundraising efforts.

Tuilo’a then issued a challenge to anyone from his district not to vote for Su’a in the upcoming elections and promoted the idea of supporting one of their own to run against Su’a in the next general elections.

However, Su’a told Talamua that his comments were not directed at Samoans coming over to fundraise in New Zealand.

“I was referring to people living in NZ,” said Su’a.

“The New Zealand economy has fallen hard and people should consider the impact of that on their own welfare.”

He said it was regrettable that he was misinterpreted but his comments were never intended to hurt or stop Samoan organisations or groups coming to New Zealand to fundraise. He feels for the people because after a fundraising event, someone would turn up at his office asking for financial support after contributing a substantial amount to the fundraiser.

“It’s different in Samoa where the extended family helps out when needed, however, in New Zealand, money is everything and you could lose your house or car if you are behind with payments,” he explained.

However, Tuilo’a was not the only one angered by the comments.

The issue was raised in the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS) annual conference at the church headquarters at Malua a week ago.

Several church parishes discussed the impact of fundraising from local parishes seeking the help of parishes in New Zealand. Several church parishes in New Zealand have loaned to develop their own churches only to contribute huge amounts to parishes from Samoa fundraising in New Zealand.  When they could not pay the loan, they turn to the main church for assistance. Although the issue was not in this year’s conference agenda, it however created an lively debate amongst pastors and church members.

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