Talofa Samoa. My name is David De Lorean. You might have noticed my name popping up on these pages lately. I’m a palagi from New Zealand, and it’s been my privilege to spend some time in Samoa, a truly beautiful piece of paradise on God’s green Earth!
But as you’ve heard time and time again, in the media and in the community, there is trouble in paradise.
That is what I would like to address in this editorial today.
In the months that I have been in this country, I have seen violence, poverty and an appalling amount of corruption in this country.
Yet it all seems to be dismissed, time and time again.
Earlier in the month, the Samoa Observer reported on a three-year-old child working as a street vendor in Apia. If you didn’t read that story, take a moment and let that sink in. Three years old!
“I came with my mom, but she is waiting for me under the coconut trees in town,” the child vendor told the Observer.
The child could hardly even count money, yet was being made to sell things on the street.
“I only know how to count coins,” she said.
This is not normal Samoa, and for a people with such a rich culture, such a rich heritage, such a beautiful land, you all deserve so much better than this.
Yet you have people such as Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi who deny there even is poverty in Samoa, when it’s been highlighted by the United Nations and even the Office of the Ombudsman, in its State of Human Rights Report.
“There’s the palagi way of defining (poverty),” said Tuilaepa.
“For an example there’s a couple that have four children starting from a baby, one-year-old, two-year-old and a three-year-old and a father that has a big plantation.”
“From how the United Nations measures it, each person in a household should have (revenue) $400 including kids. It’s stupid because how does a baby earn such money?”
“From their definition, if that household has a total of $24,000 in a week, anything less than that is poor.”
Speaking of street vendors like three-year-old Cassy, he was again dismissive of any sort of problem.
“If anything, these street vendors existed long ago and even we used to sell goods when I was living at Taufusi.”
Again Samoa, this is not normal.
In the short time I’ve been in Samoa, the country has dealt with multiple prisoners breaking out, murders, rapes – you name it.
Sometimes it seems like this is a nation founded under God in name only, as many people seem content to sit by idly, perhaps talking about the problems but never truly doing anything to fix them. God does not want to see His people committing atrocities against each other.
At the start of the month, we ran a story based on an interview with businesswoman Moe Lei Sam, who I believe has taken the words out of many people’s mouths.
“Samoa is in a mess,” she told the Observer.
“I see poverty everyday when I look outside the window. More and more young children are resorting to a life of begging on the streets.”
“Our women and young girls are not safe out there, because rapists and murderers are walking around freely when they should be in jail,” she said, speaking of a recent prison break.
“Where is the government? What are they doing about this?”
That is a sentiment that seems to be being echoed all over Samoa.
I’m a palagi, so perhaps I’m just thinking palagi, which I’m sure would be dismissed as foolish, but I stress once again – this is not normal, Samoa.
So enough is enough. Let’s do something about the problems in Samoa. Everyone has a role to play, from the people running the country to the people working in offices to the people running plantations.
Let’s make 2016 a year of action for Samoa. Let’s deal with these problems.
Wanting action gave me an idea. I don’t have much money, but I’ve cobbled together what I could spare and bought more than 50 toys. They’re just little toys, but on Wednesday 23 December, I will go out and find every single street vendor child I can, and give them Christmas presents.
It will not solve their problems. I am well aware of that. Buying some presents won’t deal with poverty, nor will it solve the problems in this country with violence, corruption or climate change.
But what it has the potential to do is put a smile on those poor, desperate children’s faces.
That will be my action to make Samoa a better place – I will try to make some kids have a merry Christmas.
With enough action from everyone in this country throughout next year, who knows what Samoa could accomplish just in 2016.
So tell me, Samoa – what will you do to give your country the help she so desperately needs?
Have a wonderful weekend, a merry Christmas and God bless you all, Samoa!