Campbell calls Samoan PM a coward

By Rebecca Lewis

John Campbell. Photo / Chris Skelton
John Campbell. Photo / Chris Skelton

TV3's John Campbell has become embroiled in a public dust-up with Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi over the whereabouts of millions of dollars of tsunami aid.

Campbell says Malielegaoi was "utterly cowardly" in refusing to front for a pre-arranged interview to discuss the relief aid.

Several weeks ago Campbell Live screened an item which alleged $58.7 million earmarked for relief had been misappropriated while many people still had no electricity or water.

The allegations drew sharp criticism from Malielegaoi, who said the report was stupid and that Campbell had been misinformed about where money was being spent in Samoa.

Campbell and a film crew went to Samoa on Monday to follow up the news item.

Campbell said Malielegaoi had asked to tell his side of the story but Campbell said on Tuesday Malielegaoi pulled out of the interview arranged for Wednesday with no explanation.

"We prepped really hard. We went up there on Labour Day Monday ready to go with the Prime Minister, so he could say anything he wanted," said Campbell.

"Around 6pm the night before he just said he wasn't going to do it and gave us no reason at all. I tracked him down at a restaurant in Apia.

"I door-stopped him on the way out, and he still couldn't give me a reason.

"It was cowardly for him to slag us off behind our backs for weeks and demand the right to have his say, then pull out. It's utterly cowardly of him."

Malielegaoi told the Samoa Observer newspaper he was adamant the meeting with Campbell was always scheduled for November 4, not the week the crew went to Samoa.

He also told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat programme Samoa had not received all the money promised in the aftermath of the tsunami.

He said about $104 million had been pledged but only around $19.5 million had been received.

Campbell said locals had asked him to "dig deeper" about the money.

A statement last night from the Office of the Prime Minister of Samoa said it was "disappointing to have this issue portrayed as a soap opera".

- Herald on Sunday

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