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Firearm in a school a recipe for disaster

Over a fortnight ago a man marched into the Utuali’i Primary School and confronted a teacher to express his anger at the inconsistency in the school hours. This could have been just another parent-teacher meeting, which sometimes can get heated if a father or mother had issues with the school concerning their child. But the alleged sighting of a firearm in the angry father’s possession, by other parents who were at the school that afternoon, was brought to the attention of the School Principal, Leaumoana Sikuava Ajawas.The Samoa Observer published a story titled “Angry father allegedly enters school with gun” in the February 11, 2020 edition. Leaumoana told this newspaper that the matter was reported to the Police on the same day (Thursday, February 6), as the infuriated man left the school without picking up his children, who were later dropped off by Police.“We have not heard back from Police since we reported it last Thursday,” he said. “We called Police because the man’s two children were left here at school, he didn’t pick them up after that. “So [the] Police took the children with them to take to their home, but they did not get back to us.”Sadly no further action was taken after the matter was reported by Leaumoana on February 6 – even when police officers dropped off the children of the man – who is at the centre of the gun possession allegations.That is until the Police Commissioner Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil read the story close to a week later and acted, which saw the Police get a search warrant and went on to discover guns in his home.Details of the firearms’ discovery and the subsequent charging of a man were published in a story titled “Armed father who threatened school charged” in the February 16, 2020 edition of this newspaper.“When I read the article, I wasn’t aware of this case so we went and explored it a little further and activated some of the procedures we haven’t done,” Fuiavaili'ili said.  “We got the search warrant and went to his house and found the guns. "These are very dangerous weapons that can easily be concealed and be carried without being noticed.”  Any progress on this matter would have been unlikely, if the Samoa Observer did not publish the story. The Police Commissioner said he only acted after reading the story in this newspaper. This raises questions about the competency of the police officers that the School Principal initially reported the matter to on the day it happened.If the police officers on duty that day didn't see the importance of the matter – a school principal reporting of an angry armed parent entering the school premises –  then perhaps law enforcement is not their calling.With the increasing incidences of school shootings and fatalities in the U.S. and around the world in recent years, the local Police should not treat the issue lightly nor be complacent about the circulation of illegal firearms.Fuiavaili'ili said a man has been charged for being in possession of an unauthorised and unlawful weapon, but they do not have enough evidence of the man walking into the school with a gun.Therefore, he has appealed to parents – who have information about the allegations of a man who carried a gun into the school – to step forward to assist the Police.Those parents, who allegedly saw a man carry a gun and walk into the school grounds, should step forward and assist the Police.The Police’s discovery of more firearms at the home of a man, after they searched his home with a search warrant, should also put the spotlight on the gun amnesty program run by the Samoa Police Service. The gun amnesty program ended December 2018 and netted just under 100 firearms. The firearms were later destroyed. But does the increasing discovery of illegal unlicensed firearms in the possession of individuals warrant the setting up of another gun amnesty program for the country?We hope parents, who saw a man who was allegedly arm enter a school’s premises a fortnight ago, respond to the appeal by the Police Commissioner and step forward to assist. The sanctity of our school grounds and ultimately the safety of our children should not be compromised, even by a parent, who should not even contemplate owning a firearm. Have a lovely Monday Samoa and God bless.

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Street Talk

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Mixed reaction to electricity savings appeal

Malo Sola, 41, Ti’aveaIt is not fair that Electric Power Corporation will be rationing power. The E.P.C. should put more focus on solar and wind energy alternatives, but then these all depends on the Government and its plans. If power is to be rationed then we will need to be prepared for it.Fiu Filo, 49, Aufaga LepaIt will be like returning to the old times when we used oil lamps when there was no power. If this is going to happen then we need to prepare for it by purchasing flashlights and other essentials needed during a power outage. The far side of Upolu is similar to downtown Apia now because our daily lives depend on electricity.Aitu Tamala, 45, Taga SavaiiIt is all up to the Government to decide. If they say they want to switch off the power then we must follow what the Government says we should do and switch off the power. Soloa Seigafo, 32, SiumuI think we have to think about the school children. My children go to Avele College and they wake up early in order to get ready for school, so electricity is really needed to help in their preparation. It is also needed for our daily chores, but if power is to be rationed then we must prepare for it.Fa’aiuga Fiava’e, 54, SapunaoaIf power is to be rationed then it will be convenient if it was on at night and off during the day time. Power is really needed at night because it is very dangerous at night without it. We need to prepare for it by purchasing oil lamps early. However, power is needed by students, especially the ones in college, because they get off late and have many chores and studies to do.Kenese Afoa, 40, AmailePower rationing is not beneficial for people, especially for those who own businesses. It is not nice as it will also affect schools so Samoa needs to start looking at solar energy as a backup to our current power generators. 

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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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