What we feared for and continued to warn the relevant authorities about for quite some time now has happened. We are talking about the story of a Chinese man being found dead on the seawall, which was published on the front page of the Sunday Samoan.
This is a real tragedy especially when it is unfolding during the Teuila Festival Week which is supposed to showcase the best of Samoa. The death of the Chinese man on the seawall has instead put a dampener on those efforts.
We say this because the seawall on Beach Road is one of the most important features of the Apia Township. It is a wonderful space for everyone; whether you are looking for pictures of the sunset or sunrise in Samoa, keen on jogging or a leisurely walk, wanting to catch up with some friends and families or simply to sit down a catch your breath. It is one of those spaces visitors to this country must try.
Two years ago in an editorial “Petty crime a crying shame,” we sounded the alarm bells about the dangers that had started to surface on the seawall. In light of the Chinese man’s death, we feel it’s important to revisit what we said then, warning the relevant authorities that something needed to be done to protect members of the public who visit the seawall.
At the time we said there was a sad trend emerging, involving criminals lurking around the area, preying on unsuspecting victims including visitors to this country. And they appear to strike at all hours of the day, even Sunday believe it or not. Take the experience of a student studying at the Oceania University of Medicine who was attacked there on a Sunday. Robert Duprey, 48, was attacked during his routine run on the seawall.
“There was a man who was just walking (on the sea wall). I was running and I said, ‘good morning,” Mr. Duprey recalled. The man asked Mr. Duprey about where he was from.
“I said the ‘U.S.’ and I kept running. About 30 seconds after he comes up from behind me, punches me in the face and throws me down and tries to take my wallet and phone.”
“He hit me really hard from behind. I’m on top of the seawall and I fall down to the bottom. When I’m falling, I knew I was being attacked. “
Mr. Duprey believes the man was “high” judging by the look in his eyes.
“I get up but he tries to come at me three times and I fight him off,” he said. “Then he comes at me with a coconut and then I get ready to fight but he starts running away because another man was coming to help me. I had blood all over my nose and face but he didn’t get my things.”
Luckily for Mr. Duprey, he was no slouch and was able to defend himself.
Now last week, a similar incident happened. This time, the culprit attacked another American man and his girlfriend at around 8:30 at night. The American man and his girlfriend were taking a leisurely stroll on the seawall when a man came out from nowhere and attacked them.
“We were just walking along the sea wall enjoying ourselves when all of a sudden a burglar grabbed my girlfriend’s hand,” the couple recalled. “He was trying to get her purse and he did. Once he grabbed the purse, he pushed my girlfriend down and ran off with it.”
The American chased after the man and with the help of a local, they were able to stop the robber as he tried to escape into the ocean. The police were called and the bag was luckily retrieved, along with all the woman’s personal belongings.
On both occasions, the victims were badly shaken. The American involved in the attack last week said the incident had left a bad taste in his mouth about Samoa.
“It’s so sad that incidents like this are happening too frequently now,” he said. “Too many people have been reportedly hurt and/or attempted robbery at this location at night time. Not only have there been robberies but people have been beaten on the sea wall. Also, there seems to be a much higher danger if one is a palagi.”
The worry is that these criminals don’t just target visitors. We’ve heard many stories of innocent local residents who have also become victims – some of them young boys and girls who were simply enjoying the atmosphere. Which is what we should all be alarmed about.
That was two years ago. What was done about it?
Well on Sunday, we woke up to the sort of news no one wants to see. That an innocent Chinese man had been found dead. It’s too early to tell what happened but from the accounts we’ve heard so far, it appears that it was case of an attempted robbery gone horribly wrong.
So what is going on in Samoa today?
Let’s just say people talk so much about progress on these shores; the high rises in Apia, the flash lights and what have you. And yet when you scratch a bit deeper what you will find would alarm you. Deep beneath all the façade there is a sense of sadness, bitterness. The signs are there, that there is something terribly amiss, in the make up of this country.
We’re talking about the rise in petty crimes, the poor standard of living among some people, the deteriorating state of our morals, values and our culture. These problems cannot be ignored, they are staring us in the face every day. And they are hurting innocent people – to the point now that someone has been killed.
This is very, very sad Samoa.