It’s par for the course that elections do get ugly on many fronts but the repeated vandalism of a billboard belonging to a candidate in the Urban West roll is a low blow.
It’s not just a low blow, it’s disturbing, unnecessary and the sort of thuggery, intimidating act this country can do without.
Without an inkling of doubt, it’s the work of a coward – or cowards – who should be found and taught a lesson about respect and having the guts to express themselves in a manner that’s acceptable in the eyes of the law.
That’s to say if they have an issue with the candidate in question – or his billboard – he/she or they should have the guts to go about it in an acceptable way rather than veiled threats and unnecessary vandalism that only reflect badly on Samoa.
What’s more, say that an opposing candidate is behind the damage, what message does that tell us about that person? If they are so intent on breaking the law now, what makes us think they won’t do the same if they get into Parliament?
The point is that we must all feel duty bound to seek ways to eliminate these sorts of attitudes from Samoan society. Such attitudes are not only threatening, it is criminal and we simply don’t need it.
For the unanimated, last week candidate Faumuina Asi Wayne Fong offered a reward of $1,000 for information on who vandalised his campaign billboard at Sinamoga.
“That billboard was put up there (in Sinamoga) for reasons that there are a lot of registered voters in Moamoa and Sinamoga area for the Urban Seat,” said Faumuina.
“Unfortunately it was damaged five days after it was put up. It’s just a photo and I had sought approval from the pulenu’u, the M.P for Faleata East and the family that owns the land.”
The candidate suspected that the act was deliberate, as someone would have had to scale the rather tall billboard with a knife to rip it.
Although the billboard will not affect his campaign and election results, Faumuina said it does not mean that the damage should be ignored.
As a result, he lodged a complaint with the Police. At the time, he said the reward was an incentive to help the Police with their work.
But Faumuina changed his mind a couple of days later.
“It’s fixed and it’s smiling again,” he wrote on his Facebook page, thanking Niko Caferelli and the Design Studio crew for their generosity.
“I have decided to withdraw my complaint with the police, forgive the brother who did it and move forward from here.
“Urban West has more pressing issues and developments that needs taking care of A.S.A.P.”
We couldn’t agree more with him.
But then on Sunday, the billboard was vandalised yet again. This time, the hole was bigger, there was tagging on the sign and there was a note expressed through the number “300” at the bottom of the billboard.
Asked for a comment, Faumuina was lost for words.
“I have not much to say but (I’ll just) keep on forgiving and move on,” he said.
Well good on him.
But now that the deliberate act of vandalism has been committed twice, forgiveness okay but we need to do more. What’s needed is for the Police to investigate and find who is responsible so he/she could be held accountable for the damage. In doing so, we will send out a message to others that they cannot get away with such attitudes.
Here is the thing; the thought of people behaving such a way in Samoa sends a chill up the spine. If such behaviour is allowed and not dealt with, innocent members of the public become vulnerable and frightened since it appears that law and order are no longer nationally respected. And subsequently, people’s freedoms and their rights are trampled upon.
We don’t need this in Samoa.
We know that in today’s constantly evolving global society, disturbing social acts of an unusual nature are to be expected from time to time.
These, however, should not be confused with deliberate acts of intimidation and threats by thugs. They are criminal acts of misconduct which cannot be condoned. They are unacceptable and they must be dealt with immediately.