The cowardly attacks, and having confidence in Govt. grievance mechanisms

By Alexander Rheeney 24 February 2019, 12:00AM

The brutal attack targeting the Chinese couple running the One-on-One supermarket, and the theft of $60,000 cash in the early hours of last Thursday has struck fear amongst the Chinese business community.

And who wouldn’t be fearful of such an attack – if the CCTV footage which was uploaded to social media immediately following the attack – is an indication of the brutality and viciousness employed by the thugs.

Driven by fear of future attacks, other Chinese families swiftly responded to the news and have relocated to “safer” areas of Apia. Last year the operator of the Kavana Avealalo store at Falelauniu, “Ming”, was attacked by a Samoan male who then stole cash from the store and fled. Following the events of last Thursday, the family opted to relocate to their family residence in Faleata. 

Another Chinese businesswoman and manager at Savalalo Coin Save, Zhans Honge, condemned the attack and questioned the failure of the local authorities to find and prosecute the perpetrators of attacks in recent years targeting Chinese-owned businesses.

Video footage of the attacks have at most times been uploaded to social media, giving the public a platform to express their views. A lot of Samoans condemned last Thursday’s incident at Vailoa, describing it as cowardly and calling for more Police action. But there were one or two, who questioned the legitimacy of foreign-owned businesses in Samoa, and used the opportunity to highlight the need for more national ownership.

The concerns raised are valid, especially in relation to increased national participation in commerce. But the context – the use of violence targeting foreign-owned businesses as a former of protest at the lack of opportunities – is wrong and shouldn’t be promulgated. 

All matters relating to increased national participation in commerce should be raised with the Government and the relevant agency – Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (MCIL). If there are foreign-owned businesses, which locals suspect are in breach of their trading licenses, then again the allegations should be brought to the attention of the relevant Government ministry. If there are leaders in Government – who are bypassing processes and procedures in a bid to promote a foreign investor – then they should be referred to the relevant authorities.

We must learn to have trust and confidence in our systems of governance, and their ability to ensure there is transparency and self-accountability of and in Government decisions. Even our leaders should subject their decisions and foreign investor-friendly policies to scrutiny, to avoid the fanning of public perception of collusion between leaders and foreign investors. 

Sadly, the Pacific Islands has in the last 15 years, been plagued protests and violence targeting foreign-owned businesses. Anti-Chinese protests that mainly targeted businesses in Tonga (2006), Solomon Islands (2006) and Port Moresby, PNG (2009) have left a permanent scar in the region’s history. The absence of a national SME Policy – to stimulate growth of nationally-owned SMEs and create an enabling environment for technology, capacity building and access to finance – would have gone a long way in addressing the aspirations of citizens who wanted to get into commerce. This would have put them on an equal footing with their foreign counterparts (businesses), and ensure that fears of a “foreign takeover” of the business sector are put to bed. Or legislate in Parliament to force foreign-owned businesses to accept quotas on the number of local staff they can employ versus foreign employees. 

On that note we concur with the sentiments expressed by Mrs. Honge, wherein she said those who have opted for a life of crime should stop and find a job.

“Why don’t they just go and look for jobs instead of stealing and attacking money especially that of the Chinese?”

Have we ever thought about the number of locals whose livelihoods depend on a foreign-owned business and what it would mean for them if the business was targeted in a criminal activity? They would most likely be laid off, if the company made losses due to criminal activities.

Perpetrating violence and crime of various forms is not the answer to ultimately living a life full of blessings and prosperity. Let us have confidence in our institutions of Government and the frameworks of governance to address our concerns. We should not accept and condone violence of any form and kind to citizens and non-citizens, and must at all times have respect and human dignity.

Have a lovely Monday and a wonderful working week Samoa. God bless. 

By Alexander Rheeney 24 February 2019, 12:00AM

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