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Flag Day performers stranded, boat leaves

A lack of communication between the Samoa Shipping Corporation, owners of the Lady Naomi inter island ferry, ASG Flag Day officials and Lano village, who participated in the Flag Day festivities, resulted in forty-one of the village group sleeping at the Fagatogo inter island dock after they were not allowed to board the Lady Naomi yesterday morning.

Malaeulu Amoni, a ranking chief of Lano who led the group, told Samoa News yesterday morning he was really saddened when some of Lano group was not allowed to board the vessel.

“I had already boarded the vessel but when I saw that many members of my villagers were held behind, I decided to stay back” said Malaeulu.

Fighting back his tears, Malaeulu said they had been at the wharf since 4pm on Thursday until they were told by Flag Day Committee member Palaita Tusi Suiaunoa they should go back to the family which hosted them until the Lady Naomi's next available voyage.

Palaita was reported to have told the Lano villagers to catch the bus back to Saulo’s residence in Fagaima, where they stayed during the Flag Day festivities.

Several attempts, by Samoa News, to get comments from Palaita yesterday morning before he got in his vehicle and drove away and phone call messages left at his office were not returned as of press time.

Another stranded Lano villager told Samoa News he was surprised a representative from the governor’s office was not present at the wharf to make sure they all boarded the Lady Naomi.

“The only people that were here were our families and members of the family that hosted us and yet these are not the people who invited us, the invitation came from the government”, the villager said. He said women, men and the youth from his village slept at the wharf, using their bags as pillows and their ie lava lava as blankets through the night.

One of the women who was left behind described the state of confusion, fear and sadness they went through as the boat prepared to leave and nobody explained why they were not on it. She told Samoa News some of their villagers arrived at the Fagatogo dock at 7am on Thursday and she felt really bad for their ‘tama ma tina matutua’ (elderly) that had been on that wharf since Thursday night, although the vessel left at 3am, because they had to wait until the ‘aiga’ buses started running at 6am before they were able to return to Saulo’s residence in Kokoland.

She also told Samoa News that all their luggage was on the ferry and they are now stranded without a change of clothing until they leave.

Other Lano villagers blamed local Immigration for not allowing them to depart the territory.

Senior Immigration Officer Coleman Fuimaono told Samoa News that more than 40 members of Lano village did not depart yesterday because the manifest list given to the Immigration office from Samoa Shipping is what they follow.

“My job is to check-in those who are on the manifest list from the shipping agency and that list had more than 200 passengers. If their names are not on the list, I’m sorry there is nothing I can do, my job is to follow procedures and instructions and I cannot board anyone that is not on that manifest list”, said Fuimaono.

The senior Immigration Officer said the permit which allows the remaining 41 members of the Lano village to enter the territory is still valid and they can stay until the next available boat trip.

“Several families of those from the Lano group, who reside in the territory, have decided to pay the fares for their families to depart on the airplane, while others are still waiting until next week, Thursday to depart the territory”.

Samoa News asked a Polynesian Shipping official why the Lady Naomi took back Lano and Tolotolo o Tama Uli at the same time, which many blame as the reason 41 Lano villagers were left behind. The official explained that Polynesian Shipping is just the agent, Samoa Shipping who owns the Lady Naomi makes the call.

“The Samoa Shipping main office in Samoa contacted us and said to board Lano village together with the fautasi crew To’oto’otamauli on the same trip”, she said.

The official told Samoa News that the Lano villagers who did not board the Lady Naomi on Thursday evening will go back to Samoa for sure next week Thursday.