“Let’s not panic” – Tuala Oli Ah Him
Street vendors are a hot topic of the country after two videos went viral on social media.
One video was of kids assaulting a man who was sleeping in front of the Bartley building while another, showed vendors fighting on the streets.
And while many are blaming the parents as the cause of the problem, businessman Tuala Oli Ah Him is adamant that the issue is not a big deal and that kids are just being kids.
He is also advising that people stay calm and accept that this is the way of the world.
“It’s not a new problem,” he said.
“I’ve travelled all over the world to countries like Indonesia, Singapore and Paris. The problem is there even in New Zealand and even in the beginning of time when Jesus was around it was there.
“If you look at the child vendors and the children we shouldn’t really panic because every week somebody is killed by an adult - they get drunk and they fight and kill each other.
“But as for the street vendors, I know there are some videos that have come out but we shouldn’t panic because they are just children.”
Tuala said we should focus on bigger issues like people getting assaulted and murdered by other adults.
“In terms of vendors if we look at some of the villages they ban malo usu, sulatoga, salelesi that is actually on another level,” he said.
“If you look at NGO’s, churches and even sports organisations they are on a bigger scale in terms of asking for money.
“So my view on these street vendors is that it’s not a problem because it has always been in Samoa.
“Growing up in the village myself of Leauvaa and Faleula I used to sell mangoes on the street and when I was young I used to do that because we’ve got a lot of mangoes and avocados in Faleula.
“To me we can’t do much about these kids we just need to let them grow up and learn from their mistakes and hope that the next generation that will come will not be street vendors.”
But should the government have a law to ban the kids from selling products on the streets or limit the time for these kids to be on the street?
But Tuala said that having such law would affect even those who were simply shopping or enjoying leisure time in a negative way..
“We definitely cannot impose a ban on children after 2pm because that would mean I won’t be able to take my children out at 10pm for an ice cream,” he said.
“So my advice is, let’s not panic we just have to patient and look at the brighter picture that these kids are harmless.
“The bigger picture is the adults because they are the ones who are doing a lot of the assaults, murders and rapes.
“And also if we do have to clear out the vendors then that means we have to clear out the blind people, the adults on the street begging.
“It also means we have to clear everyone out people playing their guitar and busking on the street. So we can’t clear the kids out and not clear everyone else even the adults who are begging on the streets.
“To be honest there’s nothing we can do and these kids need to make a living as well.”
As to whether kids who are selling products on the streets are living a life that will lead them commit crimes in the future, Tuala had this to say.
“Well I think we are speculating about that; there is no evidence that can prove that,” Tuala said.
“And if we ask the police to for statistics, most of the people who are murderers who fight and and have killed others, weren’t street vendors.
“I can also guarantee that because I know few street vendors who are now overseas making a living with fire dancing in some of the major hotels and have grown up to become independent and good citizens.
“So we cannot speculate about that. Plus these are just two videos of children fighting and just recently we have teenagers fighting at the bus route and nearly every week there’s adults fighting and the court is also full of family fighting, so let’s not panic.”
Tuala believes the reason why parents keep sending their children on the street is because the people of Samoa have kind hearts.
“The reasons why it works with them (street vendors) is because Samoa is a loving place and every Samoan when they see a child on the street selling products, their hearts melt and it makes them want to give,” he said.
“But once they grow up and become teenagers we tend to prefer to give to the young ones and that’s why the parents of these kids are using them for this situation.
“So my advice to the public is that it’s up to you if you’re going to give to these kids or not because sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and that’s just one of the suggestions that is floating around. Stop giving or create a law that prohibits giving.
“But if such law does come out it’s going to affect every organisation including churches that are asking for money and sponsorship.”
“We can blame the parents in a way but you see the problem with the parents they have a very hard time to sell and ask for money because our people will only give to the children,” he said.
“But the main point I want to make is that streets vendors have been around ever since we became independent.
“So let’s not panic but let them grow up and all we do is get the message out and hope that the next generation will not be on the streets causing trouble because we want to create a whole new generation of educated Samoans.”
And as for street vendors being a problem for tourists?
“I have been around the world and even in New Zealand they have a problem with the window washers and they have tried to put a stop to these people who just come out randomly and wash the windows of cars when they are stop at the lights,” said the business owner.
“They have a big issue with window washers and street vendors and so if they cannot solve this, then I’m sure Samoa will have a difficult time too.
“But my only concern with street vendors is that a lot of people in town are renting and paying high fees and rent to sell their goods.
“But the vendors are just walking around selling their stuff on the streets freely. Those are the only people affected because the vendors are actually taking away business from them and they might end up not being able to pay for their rent.”
Finally Tuala pointed out that there has been a lot of finger pointing at the government and the Prime Minister in regards to the issue.
“Tuilaepa has done wonders for Samoa and let’s not compare ourselves to our neighbouring Pacific island countries,” he said.
“Samoa is unique and let’s just work together to make our country the best place to live not only in the Pacific but in the world too.”