Though the images in which the Samoa Observer has been vilified for may have been disturbing and graphic, they also represent Jeanine Tuivaiki’s story. And there’s no better way for the Samoa Observer to honor the young woman’s memory than to simply share her story in the most honest and transparent manner.
Aumuagaolo Ropeti Ale
Groups of high school students armed with bare knuckles brought mayhem to otherwise orderly streets of Apia; convicted youngster sexually assaulted a tourist; a young parolee burning a vehicle and raising hell after a night out in Salelologa; stoning to death a young fisherman even after he jumps into the ocean for dear life; viciously beating a foreign student outside a nightclub; a group of young thugs terrorizing the innocent in the town area and then this: a lifeless body, hanging from inside a building dedicated to the very same God upon whom our country is founded.
Jeanine Tuivaiki’s decision to take her own life is not isolated but the latest in the sobering history of violence that has long afflicted Samoan youth. Jeanin Tuivaiki may have died the moment she committed suicide but it appears that death had eaten away at the young woman’s life many years earlier.
Though vitally important in our search for peaceful answers, the issues surrounding her tragic death are not ethics, suicide or graphic images as some have argued. The issues in my opinion are: How do we as a nation raise our children and preserve our voice in an increasingly violent society with the watchful eyes of a militarized police force?
PM Tuilaepa could have foreseen this when he hired Egon Keil, formerly of the Los Angeles police department, one of the most highly militarized police forces in the U.S.A. This militarization of our police indicates PM Tuilaepa and his H.R.P.P cohorts are more than willing to confront and in some cases use violence to enforce the law and maintain order wherever and whenever they find necessary.
For this reason, it is not unreasonable, I might add, to expect our newly militarized police force to play an important role for PM Tuilaepa and his government in contentious decisions tied to the impending disposition of Samoa’s communal lands.
In fairness to PM Tuilaepa, his wisdom in the exercise of restraint, the deliberate use of diplomacy as well as political pressure deserves recognition. One needs to look no further than the Judiciary and see how the courts have dealt thus far with the criminals involved, the re-opening of Avele College, prison reforms and the recent apology by the Samoa Observer over the publication of disturbing graphic images that incensed the general public.
Though the images in which the Samoa Observer has been vilified for may have been disturbing and graphic, they also represent Jeanine Tuivaiki’s story. And there’s no better way for the Samoa Observer to honor the young woman’s memory than to simply share her story in the most honest and transparent manner. But to apologize is to deny. PM Tuilaepa has succeeded in forcing our distinguished icon of press freedom, Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa, to waver on his lifelong commitment to the causes of press freedom and apologize. This is deeply disappointing but understandable nonetheless.
Our nation may have failed Jeanin Tuivaiki and press freedom but free speech has not for one reason: images and bones are the most eloquent voices for the dead. Jeanin is still speaking to us from underneath her grave on behalf of herself and her generation of “HRPP Mellenials.”
I say Mellenials because this particular generation of misguided youth were born and raised entirely under the violent rhetorics of demeaning name calling and fear-mongering that have been synonymous with the Human Rights Protection Party since the early 1980’s.
And in addition to violent rhetorics, is young people’s unprotected exposure to the twisted reality of sex-filled business advertisements. In my view, it is this reciprocal relationship between the business community and the media industry that feeds the pair’s insatiable appetite for power and wealth. But unfortunately, it’s at the expense of unsuspecting viewers, especially the most vulnerable, the young and poor.
So how can we as a nation come to terms with the violence that’s eating away at our young people if Tuilaepa and like-minded community leaders are not willing to hear the young woman’s cry for help?
This is a critical moment for us as a nation. We are receding into an unprecedented level of violence and our young people are crying out for help. Thus we must reach deep and summon the courage to address it face-to-face for denial and/or political correctness will not do us any good.
As our ancestors would normally do, calmly tap our leaders on the shoulders, lean forward and then softly whisper into their ears, “Nonofo mai i lalo, tatou talanoa. A e se i fai muamua sa tatou lotu. Ia tapua’i ia oe Tui Atua, ae sauni mai ia lau Afioga i le Palemia, lau Susuga Tuilaepa e ta’ita’i i tatou i se tatalo.”