The Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, has thrown his weight behind calls for tougher laws to deal with the issue of street vendors.
He has also sounded out the idea of a curfew to prevent young people from being on the streets late at night.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Papali’i said the issue has escalated to what it is now because there has never been a law to prevent children from selling on the streets.
“That was a problem from many, many years ago,” he told the Samoa Observer. “The government tried to get the Police involved but the Police can only do so much because of the law.
“There’s no law prohibiting kids to sell. They tried implementing a policy which was not part of the law but it stopped because the Police didn’t have the authority unless there’s a law.
“But it’s a problem we’ve seen many, many years and it has developed to a major problem because of what the vendors are doing now; fighting against each other, beating up old people.
“And forcing people to buy because if they don’t buy, they threaten them.”
Papali’i says the fault remains with the parents but there should be a law against such practices.
“I believe it’s all because of the parents,” he said.
“I feel that there has to be a law because we can’t stop them from doing this. It’s also a part of help to their families in getting some assistance to meet the high cost of living.
“If it’s part of their income earning then there’s no way we can stop them. But now it’s developing into other problems.
“So the government really need to make sure there is a law.”
Asked for a solution, Papali’i says that one possible way of helping the situation is to add a curfew on child vendor sales.
“Making a time limit for vendors to sell things in the streets,” he said.
“And if there are any vendors seen on the roads in the public places then I think the authority should be given to the police to arrest them, charge the parents and take all the stuff from them so they know that we mean business, because they will only lose money from getting stuff from wholesales and allowing their kids to sell.”
Papali’i also confirmed that the A.G’s office is currently discussing a possible law that will help the situation.
“I believe the Attorney General’s Office is now working on a law to stop this,” he said.
“This is because it’s not only creating more problems but serious problems like vendor kids fighting because they are trying to compete against each other.
“They are trying to sell these things and you know if they don’t sell them and people buy from others then they challenge them to a fight.
“That’s natural; it’s a part of nature. But I think the solution will be to enforce a law, to ensure that parents are responsible and if they still don’t abide by whatever law that is going to come then they have to be charged.”
Furthermore, Papali’i explains that the street vendors are just a strategy to get buyers but at the end of the day, it’s not worth it.
“It’s a strategy because you know people love kids,” he said.
“Like myself, I go to McDonalds and they come up to me with cotton buds and I have to buy them even though I don’t need them.
“This is because of my love for them. I see them late at night at around eight, nine or ten; they are still roaming the town streets trying to sell these items.
“I don’t think they get money from it because it’s only minor things; I think it’s only $2 a packet and selling $2 items all night, it’s not worth it.”