One of the most encouraging aspects about life today in Samoa is that everyone seems to know their rights.
From the way they are treated by the authorities to what they can and cannot do in relation to law and order, across the board, it appears that most people have gotten quite a good grip of the privileges of having rights.
Which is a fantastic development we should all applaud. Gone are the days where many of us knew little about them and were therefore subjected to the violation of many of our rights.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that things are perfect when it comes to the respect accorded to our rights here or anywhere else in the world. Far from it.
We still have many instances where they are violated blatantly right before our eyes. Depending on which rights and where, these violations are a reminder that we live in an imperfect world.
Now during the past few days, this newspaper has observed the debate about the 60 Minutes coverage of the Australian couple who were attacked by escaped convict, Lauititi Tualima, during their holiday in Samoa last year.
The programme’s unfavourable coverage of Samoa has understandably earned the wrath of some of our people who have been quick to condemn the portrayal of our beautiful country. They have gone on to criticise the violation of Samoa’s right to be portrayed appropriately and of course defended the Prime Minister’s antics during the now infamous interview.
Fair enough. It’s a free world.
To be quite honest, it’s all been very interesting to follow and we’re pretty sure we have not heard the last of this fiasco. Surprisingly, there has been one point that has hardly been raised, which is why I want to highlight this today in this piece.
I want to talk about the right of the Australian woman, Angie Jackson, to be protected. She had a right not to be assaulted, sexually violated and raped. She had every right to be in Samoa, enjoy this country without fear, mistreatment and the threats she was subjected to.
We are talking about a very basic human right that was violated right here on our shores. This right seems to have been lost on most people.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the real story. This is the real issue. In the wash up of all this, it’s unfortunate that tourism, the Prime Minister and a nation’s credibility has been questioned.
But what do we expect when these things happen?
Here is the thing, before we leap and say anything else about “poor journalism”, “sensationalism” on the part 60 Minutes, who was wrong or right and whatever you think is the problem, think about this: Angie Jackson is someone’s daughter, she is someone’s sister and she is a human being who was gravely wronged. That is the most important thing about this story.
She is loved by a husband who had to endure what no man should go through and that was to watch on while his wife was raped by someone who should have been kept behind bars. Just as Angie’s right was violated, her husband’s rights were also violated. They are the real victims in this mess.
How would you feel if Angie was your sister? What if she was your daughter? What if she was your wife? How would you feel and what would you have done?
Would the Prime Minister insist on defending Samoa’s pride and nationalistic ego if that was someone close to him?
To say they were at the wrong place at the wrong time? That is just pathetic. Hogwash.
Let’s be reminded here and now that when visitors come to Samoa, wherever they are, they have a right to decent protection – just like we do when we travel to foreign countries. We’re not asking for 24-hour security service and CCTV coverage, we are talking about a basic right to protection, least of all from prisoners who should be behind bars. Speaking of which, members of the public in this country have a right to this very basic protection, a right that has been violated over and over again over the years.
Angie Jackson is only one of many women in this country whose basic right to protection and to be spared from rape and other sexual crimes are violated.
To say that Samoa has a sex crime problem is an understatement. We have a crisis on our hands. This is the bigger issue.
Not a week goes by without cases of rape, incest, molestation, sexual assaults being heard by the Court. What does that tell us about our country?
Think about those women whose rights are violated every time this happens. They are daughters of Samoa. They are sisters, daughters, wives, mothers and they deserve better. Angie Jackson did not deserve the treatment she received. And so do all the women in Samoa who have had to endure similar unimaginable pain. They deserve better.
Of course these issues are not confined to Samoa. They are happening elsewhere - including Australia. The difference is that we proudly gloat about this nation being founded upon God. We talk it up as paradise with political stability unrivalled and a safe haven for visitors.
If anything positive should come out of the 60 Minutes programme and the furore it has created, it is that the women of Samoa – or any other woman who visits for that matter – deserve better protection.
How do we go about doing that?
As a nation, we need to begin a proper conversation about how to protect our women and daughters from rape and the violence they are so often subjected to. If we can protect our daughters, chances are visitors like Angie Jackson might be spared. At the moment, we cannot say that.
Indeed, we need to look at addressing this sex crimes crisis we have on our hands. And we need to be honest with ourselves.
Forget that silly pride, we need to sit down and admit we have a serious issue and only then will we begin to find a solution and healing. It is really up to us. The sooner the better.
Have a safe Friday Samoa, God bless!