By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA: Only a limited number of family members of the Samoan scholarship student, who died in Australia last July, were allowed to say goodbye before he was laid to rest at the family home at Lotopā today.
The family were strictly limited under the State of Emergency orders that allow only a certain number of people to attend last nights’ Family Service at the Ligaliga Funeral Parlour and todays’ funeral and burial service.
The body of 19 year old Eteuati Junior Eteuati arrived last Friday night on board the first repatriation flight from Australia and was taken directly to the Ligaliga Funeral Parlour.
Before his family service started last night, Eteuati’s aunty, Peseta Arasi Tiotio informed the families and friends that only 100 people were allowed in the service.
“We will not start this service until we have a secure number, and I know that we all want to be here, but we must abide by the Government SOE orders,” said Peseta.
She also reminded everyone that Eteuati’s family had suffered a long time and the last thing they need was a $20,000 talā fine for breaching the SOE orders.
An employee of the funeral parlour then started the head count that included three church ministers, the choir master and the videographer, and it was until all were satisfied that the service started.
The service lasted 2 hours and a request by some family members for a chance to see the deceased’s face was declined. A funeral parlour employee told the family that they have strict orders not to open the casket.
He said the casket has been well sealed from Australia as a precaution against the COVID-19.
The strict measures were also taken for the caskets of two seasonal workers from Fusi, Safata who died in a traffic accident in Perth, Australia last month.
The families of the seasonal workers turned up in numbers at Faleolo airport last Friday night hoping to take their relatives home for the night before their burial the next morning.
However, all the 3 deceased were transferred to the Ligaliga Funeral Parlour at Malifa for 24 hours before they were released to their respective families.
Samoa remains Covid-19 free and there was public concern about this first repatriation flight from Australia, given the growing number of cases and deaths there from the pandemic.