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Dear Editor,

This letter is in response to an article you recently ran titled, “What happened to the trophy and monetary gift for LHS Val?”  I understand that since you originally printed the article, an update was added to your Facebook page, indicating that there was “no response from the family responsible for the award.”

As the younger brother of the late Sialega Malaetasi Togafau, I have to say, that I am quite perturbed by this article for various reasons.  The first being that until late last week, my family and I had never heard of such an award.  Both my wife and I were approached by various individuals in reference to what took place at the Leone High School graduation, and we were equally shocked to learn that an award in my brother’s name existed.  In the ten years since my brother’s passing, we were never approached by anyone from Leone High School with regards to such an award.

The article mentions that his family provided a trophy last year, but I can assure you, the majority of my brother’s immediate family was never aware of this.  Further, as your article states, an attempt by LHS officials to obtain the award was made, but proved futile when they visited my brother’s home in Nu’uuli and it appeared unoccupied.  I am not sure whose door they knocked on but my brother’s home is five steps away from my own, and is currently occupied by tenants who would have pointed the LHS officials in the direction of my home.  Additionally, via the update posted on your Facebook page, you have mentioned that there has been no response from the family.  Naturally, when I read this statement, I understand this to refer to me- being that I am my brother’s family.  However, no one from LHS’s staff or the Samoa News staff has reached out to my family, or my brother’s children for a statement regarding this issue. 

My brother’s daughter who lives in Hawai’i was so upset by this article that she in turn, contacted your Samoa News staff to understand what exactly was going on.  I even received a phone call from one of my older brothers, whose daughter in North Carolina read the article online and wanted to know what happened.  It would best serve your readers if your reporters did their due diligence prior to printing and actually contacted our family for a statement.  Or at the very least, name the individual, who in the past was responsible for supplying this award.

I was compelled to respond not only out of respect for the memory of my late brother, but also for the young woman whose accomplishments most certainly deserved recognition on her graduation day.  My brother was someone who delighted in seeing our youth rise up and excel, yet this article appears to cast a shadow on both my family and late brother in a most undeserving light.


Willie M. Togafau

 (Editor's note: We did carry out due diligence. We spoke to the family member responsible for providing the award last year, Sialega Malaetasi Togafau's sister Aolele Togafau Toilolo. It was she - to honor the memory of her beloved brother Sialega - who provided the award last year and again offered to continue it this year. However, there was some miscommunication and the trophy did not arrive on island in time for the awards banquet and graduation ceremony. Furthermore, she recently returned from off island. Aolele has since offered her apology to the school, and Samoa News, for the misunderstanding and has been assured by the supplier that the trophy will be here later this week, at which time she plans to invite school officials, and the Class of 2017 valedictorian and her parents, to a special luncheon, hosted by her, so an official presentation of the award can be made. Samoa News was told by Aolele that she provided the trophy and monetary gift out of her own pocket last year, and again this year, because her brother Sialega was very proud of Leone High School and would have been excited about recognizing the up and coming generation of the territory. BC)