We don’t allow kids to play with guns? Why should we let them sell alcohol?

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 11 February 2019, 12:00AM

Let’s see. The story titled “Govt. law to legalise 18 year olds to sell alcohol” published on the front page of the Samoa Observer last Friday immediately raised the alarm bells.

Coming at a time when the leaders of this country are struggling to find answers to countless alcohol-related problems, including the needless loss of lives, the story definitely struck a sore point with many members of the public. And rightly so. Who wouldn’t be concerned?

Now let’s try and be rational about this. While the Government has a point when it comes to the idea of job creation – since that’s one thing the young people of this country need so badly – the idea that the only thing they can conjure up in response to this need is alcohol-related jobs, is both negligent and irresponsible. 

We don’t allow children to play with guns because there are so many risks involved – including death. Why then should we even consider the possibility of teenagers selling alcohol? 

If this proposed law is passed, why don’t we just allow them to do anything they want? Why don’t we just legalise them to sell sex and other things? We say this with the utmost respect because this is the path we are heading. 

Indeed, of a hundred things this Government could have thought of to create jobs and it comes down to kids selling alcohol? Have any of these leaders been observing what’s been happening in Samoa lately in terms of alcohol? 

In case they hadn’t noticed, all they needed to do was listen to Gagaifomauga No. 3 Member of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao, during the last Parliament session.

 “If you look at the statistics, of about two thousand cases handled by the Police, about 90 per cent would be alcohol-related, resulting in death, death, death,” La’auli told Parliament. “The question is why have people become such bad drunks? People are going wild when they’re drunk.”

Ironically, La’auli made the point during the second reading of the Alcohol Control Bill 2018 which ironically sets out to reduce the demand for and consumption of alcohol, and to minimise the harmful effects from the abuse of alcohol.

The former Speaker of Parliament did not mince words.

“This is the number one killer in the country right now. The impact on innocent members of the public caused by drunks, who roam around carelessly on the streets and create problems is enormous.”

 “Your Honour, if you look at the products being produced here, I can tell you they are not good. Please consider what’s being produced, the percentage is way too high that people have become drunks to the point where they don’t have brains.

 “So much to the point when they want to commit murder, they just kill people, not one but two or three at the same time. What’s happened is that (alcohol consumption) is out of control.”

Did anybody listen to La’auli? Do they care about what he said? In must be said that in this instance, La’auli is right on the money. Everyone in this country should be paying attention with the idea of doing something about it. In Samoa today, we are dealing with so many social problems – among them violence in general and domestic violence. The role of alcohol in these incidents cannot be denied. 

This is why the idea that the Government is working on a law to enable 18-year-olds to “sell alcohol” as a form of employment is absolutely ridiculous.

Interestingly enough, according to the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, when he was asked if it was a good idea allowing 18-year-olds to be exposed to and selling liquor – given the increasing number of incidents relating to the abuse of alcohol – the Minister said it is a source of income for the teenager and their families. 

“Most of our kids are out school at the age of 18 years so where are they going to go? So we allow them as long as there’s someone supervising them, like the owner of the bar who has to be there or someone has to be inside the bar who is 21 years old or above,” the Minister said. 

“So it is a job opportunity for them, otherwise we will have so many kids who don’t go to school, dropouts having no jobs to turn to.”

Well here’s some news for the Minister. This is already happening in Samoa. We already have so many unemployed able-bodied men and women loafing the streets of Apia getting up to no good. Many of them end up in Tafaigata Prison for one crime or another.

We appreciate the thought that the Minister and the Government are putting into the issue of job creation. But they have to do a lot better than encouraging our young people to go out and sell alcohol. 

We have said it before and we will say it again. Samoa’s economy needs a strong foundation to solidify this country’s development. Such a base can only be grounded by a sound, export-driven strategy. Without a doubt our dependence on aid and remittances is the central root of our problem. 

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us.

Have a wonderful Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 11 February 2019, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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