Amend law to empower Village Councils and chiefs

Village councils and chiefs should be given powers to address child protection issues at the community level.

That is the view of 59-year-old Tago Asiata from Safotu, who was a participant at a recent conference in Apia on human rights, which was organised by the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development. 

He said the Ministry should do a review and consider making amendments to the Village Fono Act 1990 to restore the powers of the village councils and chiefs.

“We need to plead to the Government to review and hopefully amend this Act to give the chiefs and village council powers to enforce laws surrounding human rights especially child protection. 

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“Not only to deal with parents whose children are child vendors, but also violence cases within villages. There’s already a law, but we just want a chance for them to look into it again, and see if there can be any changes made to give us power to address more,” he said. 

Empowering village councils with laws to address issues such as child vending, added Mr. Asiata, will ensure parents don’t abandon their parental responsibilities. 

“If the Police won’t do it, we’re willing to do it for them. There is no such provision in the Village Council Act 1990, and that’s what we want the Government to look into.

“We’ll hold parents accountable and punish them in the villages, their parental responsibilities are abandoned, and so we need the law to back us up – the Act isn’t good right now,” he added.

The lack of what was described as “proper consultations” between the Ministry and the public also came under scrutiny, with Mr. Asiata saying it is one reason behind Samoans not knowing the definition of human rights. 

“I know the issue of people not taking the term human rights well, is due to the fact that it isn’t well communicated to the people, both rural and urban areas. Consultations aren’t well executed, parents and children don’t know to what extent their rights are valid.”

The issue of child vendors is a result of the public not been well informed on Government policies, which Mr. Asiata said could be avoided if there was proper consultation and village councils were involved.

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