Wednesday, April 6, 2011

[pima.nius] Concern over coverage of Chinese shops in Samoa

1:36 PM |

Concern over coverage of Chinese shops in Samoa

Updated April 6, 2011 17:53:07

The editor of the Samoan government newspaper has criticised a news item on Australia Network about some Chinese citizens opening retail stores in the country in contravention of the law.

The report by Australia Network Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney, included allegations that foreigners were breaking rules which reserve certain occupations such as retailing, for Samoan citizens.

The editor of the Samoan government newspaper Savali, has hit out at the report, saying it was unfair and unbalanced.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Terry Tavita, editor of the Samoan government newspaper Savali; Sina Retzlaff-Lima, immediate past president of the Samoa Chamber of Commerce

TAVITA: You look at the people he interviewed. Most of them are more or less people you would expect to have an axe to grind against the Chinese and we have our opposition party people especially the election side and also the Samoa Observer who have been publishing a lot of criticism against the Chinese and also the Chamber of Commerce President, Mr. Sina Lima, whose views of the Chinese have been well documented in the past.

HILL: What about the substance of his report, the substance of the complaints which were that people from China are coming into Samoa and illegally opening up retail stores which they're not supposed to do. Is that happening or is that not happening?

TAVITA: If you look at the transcript of the report the issue is pretty muddled. Some people were talking about Chinese opening up shops within Samoa and the other issue that was coming on was that Chinese workmen were working on Sunday. So there distinguishing of the two issues, it was muddled together.

HILL: But are Chinese people illegally opening up retail businesses in Samoa?

TAVITA: That is the question that has to be asked of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour.

HILL: But one of the people in the original report stands by what she said. The immediate past president of the Samoa Chamber of Commerce, Sina Retzlaff-Lima insists though that she was not specifically targeting Chinese.

RETZLAFF-LIMA : It's basically an enforcement of our foreign investment act. It's protecting our small micro and medium enterprises, it's protecting the opportunity for the local business person who is in the retail industry. So really it's not a question for us about race or who is coming in and who is investing necessarily. It is basically we would like the foreign investment act enforced. It's there for a reason, it's there to protect and encourage local investment in Samoa in the area of retail.

HILL: Terry Tavita believes some of the complaints from the private sector about foreigners opening retail shops might be caused by local business owners not liking competition. He insists there is no tension between Samoans and the newer Chinese immigrants.

TAVITA: I don't see any problems, I think Samoans have a very vocal minority and these people tend take the limelight for the contentious issues, but on the grassroots level we have people, most of the people are patronising these Chinese shops because they're offering very cheap products, much cheaper than local merchants that have been operating here for many years.

HILL: So you think there might be an element of economic competition at the bottom of these complaints?

TAVITA: There's always an element of economic competition and if you look at government policy right now, we're opening up our market to competition. But at the end of day, its the grassroots people who get all the benefits you get cheaper prices.

HILL: But then again opening shops on a Sunday, that could be seen as culturally very problematic in a strongly Christian country like Samoa. That could upset people, couldn't it?

TAVITA: Not really, if you look at Samoa. We have police working on Sundays, we have the wharves opening on Sunday, we have airports opening on Sundays, we have hospitals, there are hotels, bars, restaurants. All these things are opening up on Sundays, even the fish market and a lot of stores open on Sunday. You are just picking on Chinese, because they are migrants, they are easy pickings for some people in our community.

HILL: But Sina Retzlaff-Lima disputes the claims that Samoan business people are just upset that foreigners are undercutting them on price.

RETZLAFF-LIMA: Really if these foreign investors who are first of all setting up illegally, because it's against our foreign investment act; and if they are actually undercutting any of our businesses or any of our members, then we would be to be honest questioning the ethical way that they are able to do that.

HILL: Well, if this is happening as you're saying, how are they able to flout the law like that?

RETZLAFF-LIMA: Well Bruce, new investors that come in don't necessarily play by the rules.

HILL: Is this issue causing any tension?

RETZLAFF-LIMA: Bruce, we really don't want to see that in Samoa. We're people that migrate, we immigrate very well and we gell very well with foreign investors that , particularly if they come in and they intermarry with our Samoan people. I think culturally, we're very diverse in that respect. But we do want to look ahead and we do want to take lessons from other economies in the Pacific and so I think Samoa is at that crucial point where they can avoid, through basic enforcement of laws that already exist, they can avoid possibilities such as riots as we've seen in the other Pacific nations.

pacific islands media association
aotearoa, new zealand
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