Let’s see. This country has been politically independent for 56 years now.
Throughout that time, although there have been a few skirmishes here and there, we’ve been largely blessed to have been able to enjoy an environment of peace and mutual respect driven by our culture, Christian values and protected by the rule of law.
It goes without saying that laws created and passed by Parliament exist as people’s management instruments. They are meant to provide the mechanisms by which societies can manage people, and bring control on the activities on what can and cannot be done. Without laws, it is reasonable to believe that anarchy and chaos would prevail. Which is what we have seen in some parts of the world.
Here in Samoa, peace and freedom exists on the back of the fact law and order in most cases is respected. It is why it’s been made mandatory that both the Police and the Judiciary are not interfered with in the carrying out of their duties. Indeed, they have to be assisted by members of the public where ever and when ever they can.
In light of the disturbing developments in Savai’i last week, there is reason to believe that law and order is under threat from within. The threat has everything to do with the Police being threatened and being interfered with in the performance of their duties.
Two Mondays ago, a video showing out of control men from Salelologa ransacking and vandalising the Savalalo market surfaced online. It was heartbreaking to see women being harassed, their products scattered all over the place while these men armed with pieces of stick and one with a gun helped themselves to whatever they could get their hands on.
But it wasn’t just women who were victimised. Peter Mariner, a businessman from Salelavalu lives to tell of the horror.
“It’s like what you see in the movies,” he said. “I couldn’t believe this is happening in Samoa. I couldn’t believe that this is what young people in Samoa are capable of doing today.”
“They broke into pieces my marble pool tables, they cost about $6,000 each. Then they vandalized my barber shop. They threw rocks inside, smashing the place and then they took the hair clippers.”
“Not only they shattered the doors and mirrors inside the barber shop; they also took scissors and hair clippers.”
This is the kind of lawlessness and anarchy we are talking about when the rule of law is ignored. It’s a threat to this community and everyone else who lives here.
But it got worse.
From what we’ve been told, a delegation of Police officers then made their way to Salelologa where they arrested two of the men responsible for the attack. It was while they were on their way to the Tuasivi Police station when the Police were stopped and surrounded at Salelologa.
Under threat and outnumbered by men from Salelologa, they were told to release the two men. This was done and today, those men who openly broke the law at the Salelologa market are still walking around freely.
The Police in the meantime have confirmed, according to a report on Radio New Zealand, they have given up hope that the Salelologa village will hand over the suspects.
Now that’s pretty disturbing stuff no matter how it’s interpreted.
Which means this act of intimidation can become a stumbling block in the way law and order is administered in this country, and a serious threat in the pursuit for justice.
Indeed, the idea that the Police were stopped, surrounded and threatened has raised grave concern among members of the public.
What message does this send to the rest of Samoa? What stops the next group of people from going all out and carrying out their threats on the Police officers?
And if this act of intimidation and interference is allowed to go unpunished, what hope is there for anyone else to allow the Police to carry out there work?
We accept that this is a very sensitive issue. It’s not as straight forward as it seems. The need to find the delegate balance between the use of force and the fa’asamoa way of mutual respect doesn’t help either because it demands that we ease off on the use of force but rather encourage dialogue and good relations.
But how do the Police negotiate with criminals who should be charged? Why should they even bother to try and negotiate when the law gives them the power to arrest and charge?
And then there is the question about the protection of Police officers. Do our laws protect the Police in the performance of their duties? In cases like the ones in question today, is this not where the Police need to be armed to allow them to perform their role while at the same time maintain the integrity of their work?
Now that the Police have been threatened for obviously doing their work in dealing with people who break the law, how is society to function where lawlessness is allowed to prevail?
The point that is we shouldn’t ignore what happened at Salelologa last week. It can happen again. We need to ensure that the Police is allowed to do their jobs without being interfered with and threatened.
Have a safe Wednesday Samoa, God bless!