Addressing poverty and hardship a key step in dealing with wanton violence

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

This much is undeniable. The spate of gruesome crimes – including murders, rape, theft and many others - reported over recent months is quite frightening. So alarming we cannot help but wonder how much more we will allow this epidemic of unpremeditated violence to continue. 

We know it’s an issue we constantly raise on these pages. We know we ask questions about our response as a community about this issue all the time. 

But how can we not care? How can we pretend that this is normal?

As you are reading this piece, a 34-year-old mother is fighting for her life at the Moto’otua Hospital. She is the victim of a horrendous crime committed by her very own husband.

From what we’ve been told, her husband allegedly stabbed her on the chest multiple times in public. What’s worse is that the stabbing happened while their children looked on is sheer horror in broad daylight.

Acting Assistant Police Commissioner, Sala’a Moananu Sala’a, said the woman is in a critical condition at the hospital.

In the meantime, it has obviously left people who saw it in shock.

 “According to some witnesses who were there, the man was doing all of this in front of his children.” Thankfully, bystanders and Good Samaritans rushed to the woman’s aid and took her to the hospital. We don’t want to imagine what would have happened by now if these people were not around to help.

At this stage, no one knows for sure what sparked the vicious attack. 

Such a brutal story is so horrifying it’s hard to believe that this is what Samoa has become.

But this is just one of so many similar cases we’ve seen and heard in recent months. Just about every day there is an attack of some sort. 

The real worry is that it has already caused the deaths of several presumably innocent people and if this is allowed to continue there is the chance it will cause more suffering ahead which is why this dispiriting threat is quite scary.

The chilling reality is that it appears that violence has become just a normal part of life for some people. What’s worse is that we are not just talking about fists and slaps. We are talking about cases where people are no longer afraid to use objects such as knives and guns to inflict injuries on each other.

Ladies and gentlemen, this cannot be treated as normal.

The point is that there has got to be a reason this upsurge of wanton violence which has become so prevalent in Samoa today. And understandably, people will have different theories and reasons.

Now the way we see it, we believe that a lot of the violence is caused by hardship and growing poverty. These things cause frictions in families and when they reach boiling point, that’s when we see these unimaginable incidents unfold.

Sadly, the government has been ignoring this concern saying these are just stupid opinions. And as long as they refuse to do anything to tackle hardship and poverty, all this effort to reduce domestic violence will not amount to much.

We’ve got to be realistic about the causes of these problems. We can theorise  until we are blue in the face but if we don’t start addressing some of the root causes, we are wasting our time.

Now let me take your mind back to the first State of Human Rights Report for Samoa, which identified undeniable poverty in this country. Compiled by the Office of the Ombudsman as the National Human Rights Institution (N.H.R.I) of Samoa, it found that one in every five Samoans live in poverty.

“Despite progress in big picture economic growth and within high level development framework, there is disparity in development outcomes particularly in rural and remote areas,” the report reads.

 “Approximately 20 per cent of Samoa’s population lives below the basic needs poverty line (B.N.P.L), with the higher proportion of rural populations falling below the B.N.P.L. Basically, this means that about 1 in every 5 Samoans lives in poverty.”

Folks, we repeat, those are not our words. Those are the words of the report endorsed by Prime Minister Tuilaepa when he spoke at the launch of the report. What’s more, he called for the formation of a Parliamentary Committee to follow up on the report’s recommendations.

What has become of that? And what is being done to follow up this report? 

Have a safe week Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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