PM downplays Virgin excise rebate claims


APIA, SAMOA – WEDNESDAY 14 JUNE 2017: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi is downplaying claims by Virgin Australia that government has to pay $9.2 million tala in jet fuel excise rebates.

“It’s nothing new,” said the Prime Minister.

“I had expected the claim, in fact there may be more claims not only from Virgin Australia (government’s partner in the Virgin Samoa joint airline venture) but we also have claims of our own that need to be sorted out.

“Simply put, it’s like divorce proceedings between a couple.

“Before the divorce papers are signed the couple meets to negotiate how their assets and finances are equally and fairly divided between the spouses.

“That is the same process that our officials and Virgin Australia are engaging in.”

Along those lines, the Prime Minister recalled that at one point in the ten year marriage, Virgin Australia requested financial injection from the Government of Samoa to assist with the joint venture.

“And due to the confidentially of the on-going negotiations with Virgin Australia, I am not at liberty to divulge details of how much money was involved but rest assured government granted Virgin Australia’s request for funds at the time without hesitation.

“There is also the issue of outstanding dividends which is one of the unresolved issues on the negotiating table.”

On the local front, the Prime Minister also dismissed accusations, published locally, by outspoken Opposition MP Olo Fiti Vaai who labeled the Virgin Samoa airline break-up as a failure on the part of the prevailing administration.

“His comments have become very predictable,” replied the Prime Minister.

“It is in his nature to criticize the government publicly, without considering that the consequences of his outburst reflect poorly on his judgment and lack of understanding of the due diligence that my administration works hard to carry out.

“Nothing is ever perfect but in every investment government weighs the pros and cons to ensure maximum benefits for the country and our residents.”

Virgin Samoa airline is expected to close down before the end of the year.