Guns, drugs and a paradise we call Samoa

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

If the Police wanted the public to know the extent of the availability of illegal weapons in Samoa, they did a pretty good job last week.

With such a public show of the destruction of guns – including a prayer and all where the media was invited to film – the pictures have since been etched into people’s memories, not just in Samoa but all over the world. 

A lot of those images and footages were immediately snapped up by some international news agencies that quickly made a big deal about how such a remote “island paradise” can have so many unregistered and illegal guns. It’s only natural that people will be surprised. 

Why do you need a gun in paradise anyway? Unless you have something you want to protect? And even if that is the case, from what and who? 

The downside of it of course was highlighted by the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, who lamented the inability of local law enforcement agencies to stop gun smuggling. 

Indeed, that is the bigger issue and one where the focus of local relevant authorities should be directed. Urgently too. Samoa does not manufacture guns. It’s not something you can carve from a pulu tree or weave from a couple of coconut fronds. Guns are imported and there are supposed to be strict laws that should have stopped a lot of these weapons at our borders. 

The fact that 285 illegal firearms were discovered by the Police during different raids tells us the obvious. That these laws are not working. Even more worrying is the fact that whoever is supposed to be enforcing and monitoring them, do not appear to be doing their job.

The point was clearly made by a concerned Police Commissioner.

“A lot of these guns here are not made in Samoa,” said Fuiava. 

“We don’t make bullets as well or ammunitions, but these guns somehow find their way into our island and it’s not just Samoa, it’s other islands as well.

“You see an AK-47 here, we’ve got shot-rifles and hand-guns and then you think how it got into Samoa? Well it got in here somehow and there are lots of ways you can bring them into Samoa and obviously we are not doing our job as good as it should be.”

During the ceremony, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi made a blunt point not many people had picked up. He said since there is only one reason these weapons exist and that is to protect marijuana plantations. He did not mince words and he was right.

The worry is that the weapons destroyed last week are the only ones that have been found. Dare we say the Police have only scratched the tip of the iceberg because we have reason to believe there are a lot more out there. This is why it’s important that an amnesty is decreed to still give people the opportunity to hand in these powerful weapons.

We live in Samoa where we don’t need these guns. Unless you want to declare war on the family or village next door, there is no need for them at all. The problem is that the law allows anybody who has a plantation to apply for a license, which is granted more often than not.  Now if you have a decent plantation where you need a gun to scare off the wild pigs, then by all means you should get one. 

But so many people are granted licenses to guns to protect their cabbage and vegetable garden in front of their lawn. This needs to be reviewed and relooked at.

As for getting to the bottom of the problem with such powerful weapons and how they are coming in, the Police Commissioner made a very valid point last week. Which is where they really need to tighten the screws.

 “We need to cooperate also with other agencies and border agencies such as Immigration and Customs to make sure these weapons don’t come into our country,” he said. “Well we’ve got a lot of containers, cars and a lot of other avenues that can allow these weapons to come into our islands.”

He’s right. This has been happening ever since we can remember. It needs to stop if we are serious about keeping these weapons away from Samoa.

Here’s the thing though, wherever there are powerful firearms and ammunitions, you can pretty much guarantee that drugs, narcotics and other illegal activities are not far away. 

We’d hate to think that this is why there are so many powerful and illegal guns in Samoa. What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a safe week Samoa, God bless!

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