Of theft cases and petty crimes in paradise

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 23 June 2016, 12:00AM

The irony is inescapable. Although we’ve said this before, in light of what’s happening today, it’s worth repeating. You see; it’s hard to ignore the feeling that something is just not right somewhere. 

Which brings us to the point that there is nothing worse than someone who thinks they’re moving forward when in reality they’re going backwards. 

Sometimes, it feels like that in this country today. Let me explain. People talk so much about progress, the high rises in Apia and what have you. Every day we hear terms such as the ‘promise of a better future,’ a ‘roadmap to prosperity,’ transformative plans among others being tossed back and forth.

They sound wonderful and they sure tick all the boxes if you’re looking for all the right words to say in this day and age. Indeed they are noble goals, ideals we should all aspire to achieve. 

I mean who would be foolish enough not to want them? Prosperity, transformation, better future and all that these terms entail is something everyone wants - and plenty of it. That’s because prosperity is a wonderful thing and there are many individuals in this community who can testify about how that is so.

And yet when you scratch a bit deeper what you will find is bound to alarm you.

Deep beneath all the façade there is a sense of sadness, bitterness. 

Something just doesn’t add up, it doesn’t make sense. What it is exactly is hard to put a finger on. But the signs are there. 

We’re talking about the rise in petty crimes, the poor standard of living among some people, the deteriorating state of our morals, values and our culture, the qualities that define who we really are.

They are slowly but surely eroding.

Take the simple principle of honesty, for example. 

Judging by the number of theft cases in this country today, we believe we have a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Look at those Courts and Police reports; they are alarming. It appears that theft has become part and parcel of life on these shores. 

Last week for example, a woman who worked as a Legal Secretary for a top Law Firm in Samoa was jailed for stealing from her place of work. The woman had apparently arranged to meet clients and collect money from them and instead of passing the money to the Firm’s Accounts Department, she would make up excuses for not being able to provide receipts and later used the money.

According to the Police summary of facts, the Legal Secretary committed the offense no less than 18 times over a period of nine months.

In Court, Justice Vui made a very telling comment.

“From experience, this offence has become very common in Samoa but sadly it’s affecting young married females,” Justice Vui said.

 “Because of the seriousness of this offence, a jail term should be imposed by the Court so that the message should be sent out to those who are committing this offence that the result is Tafa’igata.” 

It’s heart-breaking to say the least. In a country where we pride ourselves on our cultural and religious values, it’s a crying shame.

The question is: Has stealing somehow become an accepted part of life in Samoa? Have we become so immune to the stories of stealing we are told from left, right and centre every day that we no longer care?

We say this because according to a number of business people who spoke with this column, petty theft is one of their biggest problems. They say some employees would steal everything and anything, that in some work places, if they could steal the toilet bowl, they would.

Isn’t that a sad indication of how low morality and the standard of life has become for many people? Don’t we care anymore about the Bible and its teachings? Have we forgotten that God is watching no matter what? 

Are we becoming a nation that is no longer God-fearing? We appreciate that these are tough and troubling questions but we’ve got to ask ourselves.

In some cases, it’s almost like certain people don’t care about the truth. All they are concerned about is what is politically correct and what others will say about them. This is extremely disheartening.

The truth is that if the growing number of theft cases – as one example of the many problems - is anything to judge by, this country is surely heading for a future we do not want. 

We believe honesty is the first victim of theft. You see, the moment someone decides to steal, honesty immediately disappears from their vocabulary. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a pen, a phone, a lavalava or taking credit from someone’s mobile phone. 

There is no such thing as a black and white crime. They are all the same.

But that’s not all which worries us about this country today. 

Let’s talk about hard drugs, money laundering and alcohol abuse. The reality is that if you have lots of money and if you know the right people, you will find your hard drugs on these shores. 

The Courts have shown us time and time again that ‘ice’ is widely available. As you’re reading this piece, the Police have declared war on ice in Samoa and they have been hauling in several people in relation to this. 

What about money laundering? Can it happen in Samoa? 

Of course. It has already happened. 

It’s just as chilling when you think about the wide availability of illegal guns, growing number of alcohol abuse cases and the occurrences of sexual-related crimes.

Now, it was only a few years ago that this country experienced its first case of armed robbery. Since then, we’ve seen several cases of armed robberies – including one on the big island of Savai’i some time ago. 

Now, think about poverty. Think about corruption. 

In Samoa, most of our leaders – especially the government - don’t believe the two exist. Whereas poverty is something that belongs in Africa, they will tell you that corruption in Samoa is peanuts compared to other countries.

The point is that if we want a bright future, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the fact corruption is breeding poverty in this country. And poverty is responsible for a class of citizens who are so desperate they will do anything and everything – including the unimaginable theft of things like the toilet bowl – to get by.  What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 23 June 2016, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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