At last we are moving with the Sex Offenders register

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Here is the good news. Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi instructed Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, to proceed with the necessary groundwork to set up a Sex Offenders Register.

In doing so, the government is finally moving on something that should have been done a long time ago. We say this because over the years we’ve been extremely concerned about repeated sex offenders and sexual predators roaming the streets– including sex offenders sent back to Samoa from overseas.

Now according to Lemalu, the Sex Offenders Register is one of many steps being taken to address that.

Wrote Lemalu: “I can confirm that this office is now working with the Ministry of Police with reference to the work of the Returnees Trust to finalise a Legislation as to a Sexual Offenders Register for Samoa.

 “The work and report of the Samoa Law Reform office has reached this office and that is the overall basis of this task. On the instructions of the Hon P.M. we are aiming to table a Bill for consideration of the Cabinet with a view for it to be tabled as soon as is practicable before Parliament.

 “The Legislation will create mandatory requirements for those with previous convictions of sexual offending to be registered and therefore monitored as to their current whereabouts in order to attempt to ensure public safety while not being unmindful of the need to promote rehabilitation where at all possible.

 “The Act will have a retrospective element to cover past offenders already in the community when it is enacted. 

 “It will be new to Samoa so we in government enforcement will need to work together to work through how best to implement it.

 “We will be committed to making this work for our community at large.”

Lemalu and his team deserve our support. You see folks, the question of whether Samoa should set up a Sex Offenders Register is not new. It has been raised and discussed years before but up until now, nothing has eventuated.

Which means that sex offenders and paedophiles continue to enjoy the freedom to roam and break the law as they like in Samoa, bringing much suffering and heartaches to victims all across the country.

But the idea that the government is revisiting the issue with a degree of urgency is a step in the right direction. The number of cases before the Court involving repeated sex offenders are truly alarming. We cannot just sit back and do nothing.

Many years ago, the man who made the initial call for Samoa to establish a Sex Offenders Register was Justice Vui Clarence Nelson. He became increasingly concerned about the number of cases where repeated sex offenders had surfaced.

Justice Vui wouldn’t be silenced about the issue. Not so long ago, he revived the discussion when he jailed a father found guilty of 13 counts of rape of his biological daughter.

The Court heard that the man was convicted and imprisoned in New Zealand in 2009 for indecently assaulting a female between the age of 12 and 16 years.  

Back in Samoa after he was sent back, the Court was told that the defendant treated his daughter like his wife.  He apparently imprisoned her in her own home and his behavior was rightly described by Justice Vui as “sick.”

“I find it astounding how a convicted sex offender deported from an overseas jurisdiction because of his offending, considered dangerous enough to warrant being accompanied to Samoa not by one but two police officers, can then be permitted to live freely and anonymously in our community with no restriction whatsoever,” Justice Vui said. 

 “With nothing in place to prevent possible reoffending.

“This case once again highlights the need for a Sex Offenders Register for registration of serious sex offenders.  So that such offenders can be supervised and monitored post-release from prison. 

“Irrespective of whether they are convicted and imprisoned in Samoa or elsewhere.  It seems to be a normal practice now that sex offenders convicted in overseas jurisdictions are being returned to Samoa upon expiry of their sentences.  

“Then (they) are released back into an unsuspecting community which is blissfully ignorant of the criminal past of these people who walk and live among them.  This is the proverbial insertion of the wolf into the sheep’s den.”

Justice Vui could not have worded it better. 

We’ve said this before and we will say it again. We acknowledge that protecting the human rights of an offender is obviously an important consideration.  But we believe that must come second to the need to protect potential and innocent victims. Besides, the sexual predators we are talking about are seasoned offenders. Some of them are extremely sick.

Don’t get us wrong, the Register will not solve all our problems right away. 

But this is the real world and we know from countless studies carried out around the globe that perpetrators of child sexual abuse rarely change their ways without treatment and therapy by trained professionals, and supported by some degree of monitoring in local communities. 

In other words because there is none of that available in Samoa, it is absolutely futile to hope and pray that these people will somehow change their ways. 

Which is why we believe the call by Justice Vui to establish a Sex Offenders Register is vital. 

It is also why we find the latest development as announced by the Attorney General Lemalu a step in the right direction. It’s encouraging and we wish him well with establishing it.

We have had enough of seeing our young girls being destroyed by these ruthless animals. We don’t want them to hang around our sisters, mothers or daughters anymore. The sooner the government gets this register up the better.

Have a safe Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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