“I don’t blame him but he is wrong”
The call from the Chairman of the National Council of Churches for Samoans to return to God cannot be the only way to end domestic violence.
That’s the response from Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma, who said that while he agrees Samoa is not as “godly” as it used to be, expecting one solution to overturn an entrenched issue isn’t enough.
Speaking with the Samoa Observer before his presentation on family violence at the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Maiava said general confusion in Samoa over what human rights are is slowing down the process towards being free of violence.
“If you look at it, human rights are no different in spirit to the rights Samoan customs, tradition and culture has, and the Christian principals they believe in,” he said.
“There is a commonality there that people don’t see. It’s just a confusion we’ll have to work our way through.”
That “confusion” was highlighted recently at the Ending Violence in Samoa roundtable event where N.C.C chairperson Deacon Kasiano Leaupepe called a push for human rights as the cause for Samoa’s ills.
“Personally, we don’t need this human rights idea,” he said, adding that Samoa has always had its ways of addressing social issues.
But Maiava is not perturbed by the Deacon’s call, and remains optimistic Samoa will come to terms with the concept once they understand it better, like the Conventions on the Rights of the Child.
“To the Samoan mind, the child has no rights. The child is a child.
“They misunderstand the whole thing – the child does have rights, they have the right to be treated well.
It does not mean giving children independence, or removing a parent’s right to discipline them, Maiava explained.
“There is nothing wrong with disciplining your children,” he continued, “but disciplining your child doesn’t mean you have to beat the hell out of them.”
Maiava said he supports the Deacon’s suggestion to turn to God in “supplication for misbehaving”, but in conjunction with many other activities.
“But that’s not all you do. God is not going to fix it; we can’t just pray and hope God will fix it.
“If that’s his idea of addressing the problem, then he is very misguided I’m sorry to say,” he said.
“Going back to God is great. We should all be doing that and if we are really genuine about it we won’t have a problem, he’s right in that respect, but I am afraid we have to do a lot more on the ground than just pray about it.”
Maiava’s full presentation on violence in Samoa is printed in full on page 11, where he made the point that Samoa is breeding violence into our future by allowing it to becoming habitual.
“Violence is a complex evil that interacts with itself in its different manifestations to grow and insidiously to become habitual and self-perpetuating in the life of a society. Violence begets violence,” he said.