30 April 2019, Salelologa Savaii. The Salelologa based freight agent handling the consignment containing a hand grenade has spoken out to set the record straight amidst speculation, panic and fake news on social media.
Leota Matamua Lio-Tama Kuki Retzlaff who owns the Seki a Savaii freight forwarding agency says that the consignment was from Australia, sent by a woman who is a widow.
“The sender is a woman living in Australia whose husband had died, so she sold the house, but all that she had in the house, she just boxed it up and shipped it over here to her family; and the receiver is a couple who live in Palauli.”
Leota is the owner-operator of Seki a Savaii, an agent partner of Seki Works Ltd in NZ who move cargo for families in and out of Savaii.
Leota said Seki a Savaii operates under a license called Customer Bonded Warehouse which is controlled by customs.
“What we do is that we bring in loose cargo crates of different sizes. With our partnership with Seki Works NZ and BBE in Apia, we ship in 16 to 30 cubic meters of cargo every 2 weeks to families in Savaii.
Leota says that their service includes working together with the Customs and Qurantine officers in Savaii to make things easier for Savaii families when it comes to cargo shipments from overseas.
“When the Customs officer arrived on Monday morning and started his normal duty; he opened up the boxes for his usual routine inspection and found a hand grenade;
As soon as the customs officer found this he evacuated the building, sealed off everything and called the police;
“Tautua acted quickly. I take my hat off to this customs officer for the swift and professional way that he acted on this matter.”
Leota said that he was in Apia when this happened on Monday morning.
“My staff called me and told me about the situation. I was in Apia at the time so I drove straight to PFL and talked to the GM about it;
“I requested for a copy of the packing list from their agent in Australia;
“A packing list is a form that agents give to senders of cargo to declare all that they have put into their boxes or crates to be shipped, and the sender also needs to sign the packing list,” said Leota.
Police Commissioner Sua Egon Keil says they are working closely with Samoa’s regional partners as well as local police officers with specialised skills and training to find concrete answers.
“We are considering the safest way to dispose of the granade for the trained police officers and the public; the sooner we dispose of it the better;
“We are investigating how it got into the country and also if there are similar dangerous goods already in country;
“We have to consider all possibilities and are working with our partners the Australian Federal Police and the Pacific Transnational Crime Network, a multi jurisdictional agency, located in Samoa, to get to the bottom of this,” said the Police Commissioner.
Meantime Salelologa born and bred Leota Kuki Retzlaff who is a member of Savaii Samoa Tourism Association and has run businesses in Savaii for over 20 years says the social media panic about Savaii is over dramatical and unnecessary.
“We have changed the common saying from “Salafai e lē faigofie” to “SALAFAI e, UA FAIGOFIE!”;
“The road block will end soon and our businesses here in Savaii will bounce back;
“But whoever wants to smuggle anything into Savaii DONT EVER THINK ABOUT IT cause we will catch you,” says Leota.
“Other then that, Savaii is still safe and beautiful as ever; God bless Samoa,” Leota adds.