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Vaitele killing another tragic reminder to address the root causes

The past couple of days have been very sad for many of us in this country.While the threat posed by the measles epidemic, which was finally declared by the Ministry of Health yesterday would have everyone on edge, it’s a tragedy of another kind that is heavy on our minds.We are talking about the extremely disturbing developments at Vaitele which we woke up to on Sunday morning, where an innocent Chinese man was murdered. It’s the sort of news no one wants, especially on a weekend that was supposed to have been for families to spend together and enjoy each other’s company.Sadly for that of the slain Cao Yaqin, last weekend would be remembered for the horror and the tragedy it was.From what we’ve been told, four men armed with machetes and knives broke into the Pacific Trade and Industry Compound. They allegedly wanted to steal a “large quantity” of money on the premises when their criminal plan was interrupted. During the ensuing confrontation, Mr. Yaqin was killed.Two other Chinese nationals were injured and required urgent medical attention. As of today, four men have been arrested, charged with murder, attempted murder, burglary, theft, being armed with dangerous weapons and assault.It’s undeniable that this is a very, very sad time for Samoa for the simple reason that you wouldn’t expect this sort of thug-like gangster behaviour on these shores. Once upon a time in this country, this was the stuff you could only see in the movies.Indeed, the idea that in Samoa today, we have people who will stop at nothing, including killing an innocent person, to get what they want, is sending chills down the spine. Add the dimension of foreigners being targeted; this case the Chinese, and we have a huge problem on our hands.Today, our Government leaders, Church leaders, village leaders, family leaders and all the people of Samoa cannot ignore this. If we turn a blind eye and continue to pretend this is just another crime, we will soon reach a point where no one is safe in this country.The condemnation of the murder, as expected, has come thick and fast. On the front page of yesterday’s Samoa Observer, the Ambassador of China to Samoa, Xiao Xiaoliang, issued a very clear message. “The Embassy condemns the violent attack on the Chinese,” he said in a statement. “The Chinese government attaches great importance to the safety and legal interests of all Chinese living overseas.”The Embassy also requested the “Samoan government to pay high attention to the case and do a thorough investigation on it in a timely manner.”Apart from the Police, who immediately issued a statement calling on members of the Chinese business community to “use our bank institutions to safe guard your hard earned money,” we have yet to hear from the Government.One senior Member of Parliament though has not wasted time. In condemning the attack, the Associate Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, went further and described it as “hate crime.” He called for tougher laws to address what appears to be a trend of “anti-Chinese violence.”“The Samoa Government has invested into the stability and the safety of our [local] Chinese [population and] foreign Chinese brothers and sisters; and the actions of these thugs have threatened the [harmony] already in place," Lealailepule said. Looking ahead, should the Government pass a new law, the Member of Parliament said there should be a maximum of 20 years’ jail for criminals convicted of harming foreigners in Samoa, to “protect expats, tourists and foreign nationals.” “This cycle of violence against the Chinese is a trend that should be addressed immediately.”We couldn’t agree more with Lealailepule. Today, we believe his voice is one of reason, reflecting how most Samoans feel about what has happened. The sad part about this is that it only takes a few rotten apples to spoil something.But lets not kid ourselves here, the fact is that for the past few years, the alarm bells have been ringing on the rising number of attacks against Chinese business people.On the pages of this newspaper, we’ve lost count of the number of incidents reported. One of them led to the death on the seawall last year during a robbery. Another most recent case involved a Chinese businesswoman who was punched on the face when a man tried to run away with money from her shop.But these are just a few examples of many. Even former Chief Justice, Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu had highlighted the problem, calling for urgent attention to the matter.Now the jury remains out there on whether these attacks were motivated by race. But the facts we can establish so far is that, and perhaps draw a conclusion albeit premature, is that these attackers are criminals who want nothing more but money. From what we can see, it could be that they see the Chinese as easy targets.Keep in mind that these criminals don’t just target visitors. We’ve heard many stories of innocent local residents who have also become victims – which is what we should all be alarmed about.Which brings us to the question, what is the Government doing about this? What we can say is that the Government needs to do more than merely condemning these attacks. Folks, the signs have been there and continue to be there that there is something terribly amiss, in the make up of this country today.In Samoa today, there are far too many poor, unemployed abled bodied men who do nothing but think about how to make easy money – including from criminal means. They do not have the will to work for anything, rather they just envy how the Chinese, or anybody else, are making their money and then they commit the unthinkable. Add the fact that cheap alcohol is so easily accessible, we have got a deadly equation on our hands.We believe this is what is responsible for the rise in petty crimes in this country today. These problems cannot be ignored, they are staring us in the face every day. The poor Chinese have become easy targets, but they will not stop there. No one is safe unless the leaders of this nation and everyone in this country start to address the root causes.Our deepest condolences to the Chinese community in Samoa. 

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Street Talk

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Newborns being abandoned: How do we stop it?

Poutoa Polutele , 41, TufuleleThe solution is within families. The parents should have a connection with their children and they should also teach their child what to do. For the parents, if the girl gets pregnant they should not beat the girl. They should understand and talk with her, because the girl thinks that her parents might beat her and then she makes the wrong decision. It goes back to good relations.Siloi Reopoamo, 53, Saleia Savai’iI think it's very important that parents communicate with their children everyday. One of the biggest issues today is cellphones because too many children spend time on it.  For my family I talk to my kids every time and day, ever since my kids were young. That's my solution.Lina Leiataua, 64, Fa’atoiaI think the whole country should be involved in a programme to encourage girls to speak out when these things happen. We know we cannot stop so we have to be accomodating when it happens. There are also a lot of parents who cannot have children and I think there should be a programme where these children could be adopted. It's just an idea.Api Tuilo’a, 34, Safotu Savai’iOur country needs to repent and ask God for help. I cannot see any other solution unless God is involved. If girls and boys fear God, they wouldn't do what God wouldn't want them to do - and that includes abandoning babies born outside of marriage. We need to be a prayerful nation. Vaisuigi Malio, 52, Vavaai LotofagaThe issue is not new to Samoa. My solution involves families, the relationship between parents and daughter. The kids also need to understand where the parents stand on issues and why they don't want them to get pregnant. But if they do get pregnant, then the parents need to be patient and still work with their children. That's how we solve this.Le’ale’a  Mataia, 39, FalefaGirls who don't have a relationship with their parents would do this. I think that's the first part of the problem. I also think mothers need to read their daughters body language and find out what is going on. Surely there must be signs so they should not be passive. I think we need to tackle this issue as a community rather than individuals. 

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Letter to Editor

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China and developments at Mulifanua

Kevin Hart’s letter of 03 September complained about the Chinese being a likely buyer of Government’s shareholding in the Sheraton Samoa Resort at Mulifanua. Which raises the question; what is wrong with Chinese investors getting involved in tourism development in Samoa anyway especially when there isn’t much interest from elsewhere? Virtually every other country in the Pacific and the world including the US and Australia, China’s foremost critics have been enjoying the benefits of Chinese trade, investment, and tourism. So why not Samoa?Whether people like it or not, China will be a major player in the region, and it will only get worse with time for those who wish it otherwise. And in any case, one can’t do business with China as China’s critics do, and then seek to deny the Pacific Islands the same privilege by engaging in fearmongering about China’s intentions.  Samoa’s deputy prime minister called this bahaviour recently, patronizing and offensive. It is also dishonest. One would have thought that with colonialism still fresh in people’s minds, China’s detractors might have tried some more subtle way to make their case about China being a threat to Island nations. After all, these are nations that have only recently won back their own sovereignty from countries that are accusing China, a victim of colonialism itself, of malevolent intent in the Pacific.  Samoa’s prime minister made the point at the Pacific Island Forum that China is not an enemy of Samoa, which adheres to a “friend to all and enemy to none” approach to old and new comers alike to the region. The Pacific islands have legitimate economic needs and environmental interests that the former colonial powers in the Pacific have been unable to meet or in some cases totally ignored. Over the years, the Pacific Island nations have even been blamed for supposedly lagging in economic growth behind other parts of the world that receive similar levels of aid. But more recent work on the subject has confirmed what the Pacific Islands have known all along. And that is when you are small, highly fragmented and horribly isolated, your costs of attempting any form of economic activity are always going to be high no matter what you do.  China’s willingness and ability to help bridge this aid gap is welcomed therefore. It also helps that China has a different approach in its relations with the tiny and insignificant Pacific Island states and peoples. And it happens it’s an approach that the Pacific peoples themselves understand all too well and appreciate. Its an approach that recognizes the inherent dignity of peoples irrespective of colour, money and level of development. The result is that in spite of the fear mongering about China’s supposedly hidden agenda even in the face of evidence to the contrary, the Pacific Islands have seen no reason to believe this crude and offensive propaganda.  There appears to have been a notable increase lately in the number of visits by navy vessels and personnel from the US and Australia doing the usual public relations soft sell with various groups including school children. The visit on board these war machines and the helicopter rides for the children will have been the thrill of a lifetime for many. One suspects that we will be seeing more of these as the West sets out to contain the rise of Chinese influence in the region. The visits bring back to mind the colonial days of gun boat diplomacy in the Pacific when control of native populations was exercised mainly through the firepower of visiting warships when turned on native communities that failed to toe the line   Samoa’s prime minister is reported to have said recently in relation to the stepped-up competition that Samoa’s main interest and focus of diplomacy is to raise standards of living and provide for its people’s needs. In the circumstances, public relations and making friends with young people will only go so far in winning influence especially in the face of China’s hard cash. Airy catch phrases such as Step Up, (Australia), Pacific Uplift, (UK), something about Family? (US), can easily backfire. A meeting between Chinese leaders and Pacific Island leaders being hosted by Samoa in October this year should be quite an event especially at this time. It will most likely see among other things the unveiling of some new aid and trade initiative by China.   And as for Chinese interests possibly helping to bring more air services to Samoa, that too would be a welcome relief from the monopolistic practices of Air New Zealand, Virgin Airways and Fiji Airways, the three carriers that operate services in Samoa today. After being badly burnt in yet another one-sided partnership with an Australian carrier, the Samoan government did the right thing for Samoa in starting up Samoa Airways in spite of the risks and poor timing. When Polynesian Airlines started international services to New Zealand in the late 1970s, it did so mainly on the strength of Samoa’s own ethnic traffic between the two countries. The airline did well even then, until gross mismanagement grounded it with heavy losses. In spite of its inauspicious beginnings, Samoa Airways if properly managed and run, (by professionals preferably), has every chance of being the catalyst for Samoa to have the airline services it so badly needs. But it is helpful as government embarks on this to be reminded that we have been down this very road before. The lessons of history are there and must be learnt and heeded, if their repetition is to be avoided. Incidentally, as for a possible flooding of the To-Sua with tourists from China if direct charter flights were to start between China and Samoa, I have a suggestion. Make the climb down to the water even more challenging than it is now. That should encourage only the young and the brave to take the plunge. Afamasaga F ToleafoaLetava

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