Illicit trade and weapons of mass destruction under spotlight in Apia

The continuing problem of Illicit Trade in Small Arms in the Pacific region was brought under the microscope in Apia last week.

It happened during a regional Parliamentary Workshop on Mobilizing Parliamentarians to Advocate for Improved Compliance with the UN Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Organised by Parliamentarians for Global Action (P.G.A.) in consultation with the Legislative Assembly of Samoa, the workshop convened Legislators from across the region to review and discuss steps taken, or that may be taken in the near future, to Address the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in the region. 

Acting Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, opened the workshop.

There were presentations from the United Nations Resident Coordinator and U.N.D.P. Resident Representative in Samoa, Simona Marinescu; and High Commissioner of New Zealand to Samoa, David Nicholson. 

Other presentations came from the Acting Attorney General, Galumalemana Noumea Loretta Teueli; Commissioner of Police, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, and P.G.A. member from Samoa, Taefu Lemi Taefu. 

The Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons is a continuing problem and challenge in the Pacific Islands Region, and has had a particularly negative impact in terms of the rise of number of cases, reported and unreported, of domestic armed violence affecting women in particular. 

The negative impact of this illicit trade manifests itself, not only in terms of loss of life and serious injuries, but also in terms of a negative impact on achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and has been widely documented in recent years, in particular the disproportionately adverse impact on Women in many domestic violence cases occasioned by this illicit trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. 

The Government of Samoa has ratified the Arms Trade Treaty in June 2014 and in 2016 submitted a comprehensive Report on its Compliance with the UN Programme of Action Addressing the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. 

In the context of Weapons of Mass Destruction (W.M.D.), Samoa ratified the Biological Weapons Convention in September 2017. 

As such, Samoa serves as an excellent inspiration to a number of other countries in the region to follow suit. 

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College hosts Samoan language week

Samoa College will mark its inaugural Samoan language week in a bid to draw its students’ attention to the country’s cultural practices and customs. College Principal Karene Faasisila, Vice Principal and staff are behind the week-long program of activities that also include the ava ceremony and cultural formalities (folafola sua, folafola toana’i, folafolaga saumolia, sula toga). According to Taumaloto Kaisa, who is a teacher at Samoa College, the program involves the whole school and doesn’t just target the teaching staff. "The college’s principal, Karene Faasisila, vice-principal and staff have initiated a Samoan Week activity not only to end off another academic term but also to highlight the importance of Samoan practices to the students," he told Samoa Observer in an interview. "The program isn’t only for the teachers teaching Samoa or is limited to students who only take Samoa. It involves the whole school with the aim of emphasising Samoan cultural practices because we have seen that some students haven’t experienced most of our practices." The week-long program this week comprises five main categories of activities that will run until Thursday. Category 1 activities highlight the importance of Samoan literacy through speech competitions, impromptu speech competitions, spelling competitions and debates. Category 2 focuses on cultural formalities such as the ava ceremony and others (folafola sua, folafola toana’i, folafolaga saumolia, sula toga) and Category 3 is Samoan sports and games such as cricket, collecting coconuts and weaving baskets. Mr Kaisa said it is important students experience and participate in Samoan sports and games in order to find out more about their origins. "The importance of students experiencing these sports is because there are a few Samoan statements that derive from Samoan games which are incorporated in speeches and formalities,” he added. "It’s important that the students experience these sports so that they’ll know where these statements come from and what it practically means. "The fourth category is a demonstration of handcrafting, weaving and printing. Students are taught on how to weave various Samoan crafts (ma’ilo, polavai, polasisi)." Students would learn the art of weaving an ietoga (Samoan traditional fine mat) and instead of tapa-making, consequently Mr Kaisa said the college had found it difficult locating an expert in that area who could teach the students which is why the elei printing activity was added. All the four categories will be implemented Monday to Thursday before the staff and student body converge on the college hall on Friday where there will be traditional performances with classes competing against each other.

By Hyunsook Siutaia 30/09/2020
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