It takes the smallest of sparks to start a fire. If that small fire finds fuel and if it is not contained properly, it has the potential to develop into an inferno destroying everything in its wake.
Such is the picture of what has been unfolding at the village of Luatuanu’u during the past couple of days. It started from a very small spark.
In this case, it was an Under 20 rugby match between Luatuanu’u and Falefa played at Saoluafata.
There is nothing unusual about that; it was just another Saturday rugby clash, except this one led to a fight between players. Understand this, fights in rugby are not unusual. It happens all the time all over the world. Somehow this one continued well after the final whistle to the point where some parties to the fight were hospitalised.
But that wasn’t all. Still furious about what had happened especially the beating some of their relatives suffered, some untitled men of Luatuanu’u took the law into their own hands on Sunday night and Monday morning. Not only did they block the road, they also threw rocks at passing vehicles, which they believed were from Falefa.
When the matter escalated on Monday and the safety of members of the public travelling along the public road was compromised, the Police were called.
Unfortunately, even that failed to deter the angry Luatuanu’u youth who turned on the Police officers. They apparently attacked them with rocks while the officers were trying to remove the roadblock.
Now when the Police Commissioner, Fuiava Egon Keil, met the Village Council in an effort to resolve the situation, he was quite blunt. He gave them two options. The first option was for the village to hand in the men responsible for the attack while the second option was that the Police would return to the village armed.
At this point, we are happy to say that the second option was not exercised. Folks, we’d hate to imagine what could have gone down if armed Police officers were to return to a village where there were a lot of angry people who only had one thing on their mind and that is to retaliate.
Back at the Prime Minister’s office, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, was obviously furious so that he did not hold back.
“There is only one outcome for such actions,” Tuilaepa, who is also the Minister of Police, said. “They should spend time in jail at Tafaigata Prison. The actions by these young men are not that of humans, rather they are the actions of dogs.”
Dogs? Seriously? But that wasn’t all. Like someone who had been loading up for war, Tuilaepa went to town on the leadership of the village of Luatuanu’u.
“When it comes to incidents like this, the question that comes to mind is, where is the Village Council of Luatuanu’u?,” he asked. “I commend the Commissioner and his team for efforts put into calming the situation. They have guidelines to adhere to when it comes to protecting their lives and these Police Officers are also chiefs.”
“They are Chiefs in their respective Villages and they were there to keep the peace but the untitled men along with Chiefs assaulted them.”
“I am thankful they did not reach for their weapons because under the law they can use their guns. If that was the case, no matter where they run the bullets will seep through the walls, if the guns were used. They don’t understand what they were getting themselves into.”
If that’s not threatening enough, I don’t know what is. Which is the last thing we need. In times like these, we need cool heads who can work towards a compromise.
What we need to remember is that villages don’t plan and premeditates these things. They happen and sometimes people use it as an outlet to bring out the worst of intentions they had been harbouring for a while.
From a leadership perspective, they are tests of our time, to see how we would react and what our response would be. Which means we need to be reasonable and rational in our thinking.
Now the village has already apologised. On the front page of this newspaper, the Member of Parliament has also apologised.
What more do we want? Crucifying the Luatuanu’u Village Council does not help matters. I speak as a matai and I can tell you that Village Councils do not tell their aumaga to misbehave. I am sure the Luatuanu’u Village Council did not tell their untitled men to do what they did.
But things happen from time to time. Why? We live in an imperfect world where the good and bad happen simultaneously. The best we can do is learn from our mistakes and do the best we can to mitigate and resolve them amicably.
What Prime Minister Tuilaepa and our leaders need to remember is that in Samoa, conflicts are not resolved through guns, weapons and angry statements. Fingering the blame does not work either.
Rather we are a nation blessed with rich oratory, Biblical principles, culture, dialogue and wisdom. Those are our weapons. And it is only through the use of those skills that peace, harmony and mutual respect is achieved and restored.
Now let this be a warning for Tuilaepa and the Ministry of Police. We are grateful that the conflict at Luatuanu’u appears to have been resolved.
But the next time they threaten another village with weapons and guns, they might not be so fortunate.
They would do very well to remember the words of Jesus Christ, the greatest Peace Maker the world has ever known, when it comes to the sword: “He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.” What do you think?
Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!