The scourge of theft and dishonesty in church-going Samoa

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

On page 14 of yesterday’s newspaper is a piece that should alarm us all. (read story)

In fact reading Tony’s heartfelt plea for Samoa to start openly discussing the issues of petty theft and outright dishonesty among our population reminds us about what we’ve been saying for a long time now. 

That is theft and dishonesty is not normal and it should concern us all. We say this because it is happening everywhere – including during church services of all places.

Now sometime last year, we published an editorial titled “What does the number of theft cases tell us about Samoa today?” The editorial followed a story titled “Police tell of increasing thefts at workplace.” 

We believe what we said then is extremely relevant to the concerns highlighted by Tony and today we want to revisit it in the hope that as a community, we will wake up and do something about such behaviour. 

Although theft is nothing new here and elsewhere for that matter, the idea that it has become ever so prevalent in Samoa today really does tell a story. As a matter of fact, for the past few years now, it’s not just the Police who have noticed the increasing incidents of thefts. Not a day goes by where the hard working Judges of the Courts at Mulinu’u are sending people to prison for stealing one thing or another. 

Without a doubt, their task is unenviable. Who wants to be that person whose job is to tell another mother or father that their future is at Tafa’igata? 

In confirming a number of theft cases last week, Police Spokesperson, Su’a Muliaga Tiumalu, said the items stolen ranged from alcohol, food to building materials and much, much more. For instance, three staff members working for one of the international hotels in Apia are under investigation in relation to stealing and drinking bottles of wine from the resort. 

Elsewhere, three workers at the Asian Tast Limited in Faleata have been accused of stealing materials valued at $3,328. At Zing Construction company at Vailoa Faleata, some 60 different size timbers have been reported stolen. Su’a explained the timbers were transported from Vailoa to the company’s headquarter at Vailima on 17October. Two days later the timbers disappeared.

But these are just a few of countless cases – reported and unreported – we’ve noticed over the past few months.

From what we’ve been told, theft as a servant has become one of the most prevalent offenses in our community today. Which is why the story in last Friday’s newspaper should not only alarm us all, it should also raise the question of what can we do to change the state of play. It’s an ugly habit that hurts the victims and perpetrators at the same time.  

Ladies and gentlemen, when we sit down to consider what’s happening today, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that something is just not right.

People talk so much about progress, the high rises in Apia, the flash lights and what have you. And yet when you scratch a bit deeper what you will find would alarm you. Deep beneath all the façade there is a sense of sadness, bitterness. 

The signs are there. We’re talking about the rise in petty crimes, the poor standard of living among some people, the deteriorating state of our morals, values and our culture, the qualities that define who we really are.

Now getting back to the growing incidents of theft, it’s heart-breaking to say the least. In a country where we pride ourselves on our cultural and religious values, it’s a crying shame.

The question is: have we slipped so low, to the point that stealing has become an accepted part of life? Have we become so immune to the stories of stealing we are told from left, right and centre every day that we no longer care?

We’ve shared this with you before. According to a number of business people whom we’ve spoken with, theft is one of their biggest problems. They say some employees would steal everything and anything, that in some work places, if they could steal the toilet bowl, they would. How do you explain toilet rolls disappearing, the faucet at the sink going missing? Mugs? Coffee? Sugar? And much, much more. At the golf course, the flagpoles are taken? Unbelievable.

But these are signs of the times.

The truth is that if the growing number of theft cases – as one example of the many problems - is anything to judge by, this country is surely heading for a future we do not want. 

We believe honesty is the first victim of theft. You see, the moment someone decides to steal, honesty immediately disappears from their vocabulary. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a pen, a phone, a lavalava or taking credit from someone’s mobile phone. There is no such thing as a black and white crime. They are all the same.

Now, think about poverty. Think about corruption. And think about the general attitude towards the abuse of public properties and misuse of power and authority. The apathy at times is unbelievable.

In Samoa, most of our leaders – especially the government - don’t believe these things exist. Whereas poverty is something they say belong in Africa, they will tell you that corruption in Samoa is peanuts compared to other countries.

But here’s something to ponder upon.

Aren’t these problems an accurate reflection of the kind of leadership we have today. And we’re not necessarily just talking about politics and the government. We are talking about mindsets and attitudes that have nurtured the signs we have seen manifested so strongly through the problems of today – especially theft. What do you think?  

© Samoa Observer 2016

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