Lawyer calls for counsels to defend children’s rights
A senior lawyer has urged the government to appoint Counsels for Children’s Rights in Samoa.
Unasa Iuni Sapolu of the Sapolu Law Firm raised the point during an interview with the Samoa Observer.
It followed the Police’s decision to keep Unasa’s 65-year-old brother Eti Sapolu at the Police station with his 3-year-old daughter, Malu Sapolu.
Mr. Sapolu went with his daughter to the Police station inquiring about a matter he was asked to give evidence.
However, when he arrived, he was told he would be held at the station.
He spent all the time there with his daughter by his side.
Unasa said it was wrong of the Police to involve the young child.
“I mean for this situation, Eki is an adult; he can fight for himself, but what about the daughter?” she said.
“The Police are supposed to protect the rights of those vulnerable children.
“But nothing was done to protect the 3-year-old.”
She went on to say that the police should’ve looked for someone to look after the three-year-old and not take her in with her father.
“In New Zealand, the first thing you need to do is to make sure there is an authority or someone to look after the child, when they are going to use the power to arrest someone.
“You have to make sure that the children are safe. That is the very first step. But over here, we don’t give two hoots about children.
“And I want that to be the most important thing here.
“In this situation, Eki is an adult, he can use whatever he can for himself, and he can get a lawyer and fight for him. What about this child? Where is her right to have a lawyer? Children have rights to get a lawyer.
“They are called Counsel for Children’s Right.
“In New Zealand, these lawyers are senior lawyers who protect the rights of the children.
“We don’t have that here, and we need to start having that here for the sake of our children.”
Unasa believes the government should pay for lawyers to stand up for our children in such situations.
“I had to be the lawyer for Eki and for my niece (Eki’s daughter).
“What about 99.9% of Samoan children in this situation? They have nobody. And it is becoming too regular. The government should fund the lawyers for these young children.
“Their rights are being ignored. We have ratified the United Nation Convention for the Right of children, and we have ratified C.E.D.A.W and yet not enough is being done to protect our children.”