Govt. considers law change
The Office of the Attorney General is moving to address concerns about young street vendors being allowed to roam the streets of Apia at night.
It is looking at amending the law to make it illegal for young vendors to be found on the streets at a certain time.
This was confirmed by the Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, in response to questions from the Weekend Observer.
Lemalu said they are looking at an amendment to prevent children from selling goods from 5.30pm onwards.
He was asked for a comment following a C.C.T.V. video that captured three young children who appear to be vendors beating a homeless man around 3am in Apia.
“We have been working with M.W.C.S.D (Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development), M.E.S.C (Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C, and the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L) on the proposed changes,” said Lemalu.
“As soon as all the relevant consultations and processes are completed, this amendment will be given to Cabinet for their consideration.”
The Attorney General did not elaborate on whether the draft amendments will stop children from being on the streets at night.
But he pointed out there is a current law which prevents children from selling goods during school hours and they can only do so after hours, but only if doing so does not affect their school work. The current law is enacted under the Education Act 2009.
“Those that are to be held accountable for breaches under this law are parents,” said Lemalu.
“The Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development have taken the lead in identifying this portion of the Education Act 2009 as an actual loophole and are now working on rectifying the issue.”
Lemalu said tackling this problem requires a whole of society approach, including the parents, and those supplying the goods that are being sold.
“Government alone with its respective Ministries tasked specifically to address important matters pertaining to children, cannot implement on its own a law that requires a communal approach for the effective application to the lives of our children.
“Hence wide consultation and discussions are important on this matter.”
The Attorney General emphasised that “in the final analysis, no proposed law changes will be fully effective unless the parents of the children involved make a decision not to allow them to attempt sales to the public.”
On Thursday, the Assistant Police Commissioner, Fauono Talalelei Tapu, confirmed there is no law to stop young vendors from roaming the streets late at night.
He said the only law that exists is the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture’s Compulsory Education Act, which makes it illegal for children to be on the streets before 3pm or school hours.
“After that there is actually no law that forces young children to stop selling and be on the streets late at night,” Fauono told the Samoa Observer.
“What I usually do when I see them out late is I advice them to go home because it’s late but we cannot stop them because there is no law about it. The only way to solve it is to amend or change the law to address that issue.”