We have a responsibility to protect guests in Samoa

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 28 February 2019, 12:00AM

The outpouring of support from locals – including many business owners – towards a Chinese business couple who were attacked during a robbery last week is heartwarming. 

It shows the best of Samoa, which is what we want to see more of.

Indeed, coming at a time when we sense there is strong resentment from some sections of the community about the recent influx of Asians and Asian-owned businesses in this country, the strong condemnation of thugs who deliberately target Chinese businesses – or other non Samoans - is reassuring. 

The truth is no one in this country deserves to be victimised – whether it’s through a robbery or being attacked on the streets – based on their ethnicity.

What we need to remember is that whether they are Chinese, Indians, English or whatever race, these people are guests of our country. 

We should feel duty bound to look after them. Think of thousands of Samoans who are also being treated as guests of many other foreign countries. What were to happen if those countries treated them badly? How would we feel? 

Besides, this is a politically independent country that welcomes everyone as long as they are here legally and for legitimate purposes – including setting up businesses, which in return help the economy and provide much-needed jobs.

Sadly in Samoa today, we’ve witnessed a disturbing trend where more and more Asians are being targeted by criminals and thugs. It wasn’t that long ago when a young man walked into a store at Falelauniu, punched an Asian woman in the face and took off with her money. 

That came on the back of other similar attacks involving Asian-owned and run businesses throughout the country. Last year, the Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu, expressed his concerns about the issue.

 “Criminal offences which involve Chinese nationals as victims have been at an alarming increase in the recent past, particularly burglary and theft,” he said. 

 “But there have also been other kinds of offences. This is becoming of serious concern… The Chinese are contributing in a significant and substantial way to the development of Samoa, but people like the accused with their actions are likely to undermine the good relationship that the rest of Samoa has with the Chinese.”

Now last week, the owners of the One-on-One supermarket at Vailoa became the latest victims. 

Since the story emerged, many Samoan business owners have expressed support for the Chinese-run businesses and condemned the cowardly attacks.

 “Not all Samoans are like those criminals. They’re just a bunch of uneducated and lost kids who have nothing better to do. The Chinese had been very helpful to our economy and we feel sorry for them,” said 50-year-old Tali Mamona, of Malie.

Another local businessman, Viane Leilua Ulugia, said Samoans need to do a better job protecting Chinese businesses.

 “In those days, the Samoans suffered from misery with the expensiveness of the goods and products from overseas, and I know that all Samoans will believe this when I say that it’s only the Chinese products that are the cheapest,” he said.

Two other Samoan business owners, Helen Frost and Maria Stowers, also expressed similar sentiments.

At the grassroots level, Ruth Uelese, who is an employee of the Chinese-owned Coin Save, is grateful just to have found employment. 

“I have been struggling in trying to find a job to provide for my family, and although it’s not a decent job, but at least the Chinese respond when we look for jobs,” she said.

She’s correct and for these jobs we are extremely grateful. 

But here is the point, as Samoans, this is our country. And while some things appear concerning especially with foreigners taking over businesses and arriving in huge numbers, here are a couple of factors to consider.

Firstly, these people wouldn’t be here if there was no need for them to be here. This Government opened the door because they need their businesses so they can stimulate the economy and provide our people with much-needed jobs.

Secondly, if you step back a little to look at the global picture, the influx of Asians is not just happening in Samoa. It is taking place all over the world.

The worry is that in some countries not too far away from us, their people did not react well to it. All you have to do is look at what happened to Nukualofa a few years ago. It was a very sad day.

We don’t want that to happen in this country. We are better than that. This is why it’s important that we have locals being vocal about the protection of Chinese people – or any other nationalities - for that matter.

Have a wonderful Friday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 28 February 2019, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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