All those little big things add up

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 04 December 2016, 12:00AM

And so once again we are back where we started.

Manu Samoa Sevens ended up in the bowl where no one cares, Miss Fiji cleaned out the Miss Pacific Islands Pageant on our home soil and after the grand opening of the magnificent facility airport facility last week, the excitement is quickly doused. 

You see, when you have to move to the next building to stand in the boiling sun to wait for your relatives who have just hopped off the air conditioned plane, there is no doubt everyone is praying the Chinese workers can work faster so we don’t have to endure this big inconvenience any longer.

The point is that after the euphoria of all that excitement to find we haven’t really moved anywhere. The issues that were there at the beginning continue to stare us in the face demanding answers. 

We’ve still got too many young children hawking goods on the streets at night. The abuse of women and children – despite all the awareness programmes – continues unabated. 

Innocent members of the public have their homes robbed day and night – and even on a Sunday. And we find that life in paradise is not that pretty. It looks good from afar when in reality, the picture is a lot grimmer.

Which is funny in a not so funny kind of way. The distractions can only last for so long until reality bites and we wake up to realise there are those nagging issues screaming at us for solutions. 

None more so annoying than cases of prisoners continuing to run away from where they are supposed to be locked up at Tafa’igata.

The latest one featured a 22-year-old prisoner Ulumoto Ulumoto of Lauli’i. Ulumoto had apparently escaped from Olomanu Juvenile Center at the beginning of November but he was not recaptured and thrown back into the cells at Tafaigata Prison until last week.

In confirming this, Assistant Commissioner of Samoa Prisons and Correctional Services, Ulugia Niuia Aumua, told the Samoa Observer that they are doing their best to keep Samoa safe from these holidaying prisoners.

Come to think of it, don’t you think the poor state of Tafa’igata Prison is a reflection of Samoa in a way? That as long as criminals and dodgy individuals who are supposed to be in jail are living among us, we can never feel totally safe. 

We’ve said this before but we want to remind you again today. The government have up until this point failed to deal with instances of “corrupt practises”, “collusion” and mismanagement highlighted by the Chief Auditor and the Officers of Parliament Committee within certain public bodies. These instances have been publicised in detail on the pages of your newspaper time and time again. And yet nothing has been done about them. Ironically, when we look at some of these instances, they are the stuff people would go to jail for. And yet they have been ignored completely.

Why does it surprise us then that criminals are doing whatever they feel like on these shores? Quite often when these things happen, we tend to view them as isolated incidents. But when we step back a bit to take a look at the bigger picture, the idea that prisoners wander in and out of Tafa’igata Prison at will is a picture of Samoa.

In our opinion, as a country, we have adopted such a relaxed attitude towards criminals and wrongdoing. It has become acceptable. It’s almost like we’ve accepted injustice as the norm. 

At the churches throughout the country today, they are talking about love, forgiveness, unity and all those wonderful principles. Fantastic. Nothing wrong with that. But what about justice? What about fairness? And does anyone not care about the truth anymore?

How many times have we heard things like it’s just another case of corruption? Another theft? Another robbery? Another rape? Another domestic violence incident? Another prison escapee? Another extra marital affair and the list goes on. 

When are we going to wake up and realise that this is not normal? When will the leaders of this nation wake up and say that all this adds up so that it is reflected in many different forms.  

Now let’s begin with the idea that prisoners belong to jail and that a prison is supposed to house them for their entire sentence. That’s right; people become prisoners when they break the law. There is a price to pay. A big part of that is being deprived of the privileges law-abiding citizens are entitled to – including freedom of movement.

And yet judging from some recent developments at our prisons, it’s probably safe to say that prisoners in Samoa enjoy far more freedom than anywhere else. They are free to do whatever they want – including running away.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about some of the most dangerous criminal minds in this country. They obviously feel that they are above the law and they can do whatever they want.

Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar though, when we think about some of the more recent cases of abuse of public properties and corrupt practises that have been highlighted? Some of these people are still driving around in flash pimped out taxpayer-funded vehicles and living a life of luxury. And yet so many poor people continue to get poorer. There are people who don’t have access to clean drinking water in Samoa. 

In this country, who is prosecuted and who is not? Who is carried and who is made to walk? Are there different laws for different people? Does it surprise anyone then that criminals at Tafa’igata are acting the way they do? 

We’ve asked these questions before but we thought now that we are over the excitement of some of the distractions, it’s time to really focus on the issues that matter because at the end of the day, as long as we continue to turn a blind eye and ignore them, they will always be there every time we come down from a high of some sort. And you wonder why hardly anything is working in our favour at the moment? 

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!  

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 04 December 2016, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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