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The Samoan Government has a responsibility to rescue its citizens including 300 plus Samoan sailors stranded on different cruise-ships overseas due to restriction for the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is the opinion of Member of Parliament for Salega East, Olo Fiti Vaai, in support of pledge for help from some of the Samoan sailors stranded overseas to be returned home.
While the Government maintains that the seafarers will be brought home once border closure is lifted, Olo said the lack of response is not good enough and might come too late.
The MP warned that should the sailors continued to be neglected by its own country and Government there are risks for the men’s mental state in terms of suicide.
The CBN news last week reported that four workers on a cruise-ship in Netherlands died from non-coronavirus causes since a no-sail order following the pandemic.
“Even if we spend millions to rescue them and bring our people back home so be it,” said Olo.
“We cannot afford to our sailors not only in fear of the pandemic but the possibility of taking their own lives.
“We have already lost more than 80 lives to measles due to Government negligence and this country will suffer again if we lose our sailors under their watch…”
One of the Samoan sailors stranded in the Bahamas, Puletiu Pao Taulapapa said other Samoan sailors desperately need help from the Government.
The sailor said many other seafarers form other countries have been repatriated by their respective Government’s leaving Samoan sailors isolated on the cruiseship.
“We no longer have jobs, no money, no connection with our children, our wives and parents,” said Puletiu.
“We are here at sea waiting for the time for the virus to arrive and we will die.
“We call on the Government and our country to please help your sons who are stranded at sea and desperately want to come home to Samoa…”
A wife of one of the sailors also in Bahamas, Falepau Niu Tulia had made similar call for Government to respond to the stranded sailors.
“We are fasting everyday for our relatives at sea and our only plea to Government is please don’t forget about our loved ones out there,” said the mother from Nofoali’i.
“I hear about the funds from overseas for COVID-19 and we hope that the Government can spare some of those funds to pay for a charter flight or even a vessel to get the sailors here.
“Even if they have to stay at our shores for weeks to be quarantined but at least we know they are near home and are not left in the middle of nowhere to die, far from their homeland and family.”
In support of the call to help the sailors, Olo reminded the Government of the contribution from the sailors to the country’s economy and its responsibility to its citizens.
“My concern is the seafarers are citizens of Samoa and it is the Government’s responsibility to bring them home,” he said.
“These men and women are our investment overseas and have been ambassadors for our country promoting Samoa while they are overseas.
“It’s an insult to human rights and to watch our sailors beg for help from our Government…”
Olo added that should the Government fail to plan for the repatriation of the seafarers he calls on the United Nation to step in and assist.
The MP was also asked to comment on claims from Government that the border restriction is making it difficult to retrieve the Samoan citizens.
In response, Olo said common sense prevails.
“Borders are opened to repatriate citizens of other countries and we should follow suit and use common sense,” he said.
“Where are our international partnerships and conventions that we always talk about.
“That is the Government’s job is to negotiate with other Governments to reach out to its own people.”
He said even if the sailors have to be quarantined in New Zealand and again in Samoa as long as the Government has done its responsibility to help.
In addition, Olo also questioned the Samoa Shipping Services and its role in communicating with agents overseas to ensure sailors are aware of their contracts and conditions.
The MP said he had talked with some of the sailors stranded overseas who have claimed they do not fully understand conditions of their contracts.
“Our sailors are also being kept in cabins and with limited supply of food,” he said.
“This is alarming and I blame the Shipping Service for not explaining these things to our seafarers.
“I ask the Prime Minister that he looks into this and do something to help our citizens who are calling for help.”
In a recent interview with General Manager of SSS Lautimuia Afoa Vaai, he assured the men are taken care of and are safe.
The General Manager had also confirmed that three Samoan sailors that were tested positive with coronavirus have all recovered.
About the request to return the sailors, Lautimuia said they have been informed and have been assured they will return home once flights resume and closure of borders are lifted.
"That man on the video had his contract ended and it was unfortunate that he was unable to return home due to border closures,” he said.
"His video does not represent the situation that other 300 Samoan sailors are in.
They are being fed without any charges and are living on the cruise ships for the time being until they can come home.”
Lautimuia assured the men are not at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 as there are no incoming passengers for the cruise ships.
“Our advice to our sailors is to be patient and to pray that the pandemic will go away soon,” he said.
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