Girls, women and mothers have a right to be protected from sex offenders

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 June 2017, 12:00AM

The launch of the Samoa Law Reform Commission’s Report on the Sex Offenders Register yesterday is a step in the right direction. 

And with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s use of such strong language in relation to repeated sex offenders, it certainly sends the message that there is no place in this country for such people.

Which is fantastic. At last we are moving on to something that should have been established a long, long time ago. We say this because over the years we’ve been extremely concerned about repeated sex offenders and sexual predators roaming the streets– including sex offenders sent back to Samoa from overseas. 

The problem is a lot more than that of course. 

We’ve also had international sex offenders and pedophiles who arrive as so-called investors, setting up businesses and mixing with our people. They end up going about their business completely undetected. 

It’s scary but that has been our reality. How many girls, boys and young women have become their victims, we don’t know.

But now at long last, we are moving in the right direction. All that’s needed now is the law to be passed by Parliament and we are away with the Sex Offenders Register. 

The fact is the number of cases before the Court involving repeated sex offenders are truly alarming. Many years ago, the man who made the initial call for Samoa to establish a Sex Offenders Register was Justice Vui Clarence Nelson.

It is worth revisiting what led to the call for it. Justice Vui had apparently become increasingly concerned about the number of cases where repeated sex offenders had surfaced. You couldn’t blame him.

The last straw was when he jailed a father found guilty of 13 counts of rape against his biological daughter. The Court heard that the man was convicted and imprisoned in New Zealand in 2009 for indecently assaulting a female between the age of 12 and 16 years.  

After he was sent back to Samoa, the Court was told that the defendant treated his daughter like his wife.  He imprisoned her in her own home and his behavior was rightly described by Justice Vui as “sick.”

 “I find it astounding how a convicted sex offender deported from an overseas jurisdiction because of his offending, considered dangerous enough to warrant being accompanied to Samoa not by one but two police officers, can then be permitted to live freely and anonymously in our community with no restriction whatsoever,” Justice Vui said at the time. 

“With nothing in place to prevent possible reoffending, this case once again highlights the need for a Sex Offenders Register for registration of serious sex offenders.  So that such offenders can be supervised and monitored post-release from prison. 

 “Irrespective of whether they are convicted and imprisoned in Samoa or elsewhere.  It seems to be a normal practice now that sex offenders convicted in overseas jurisdictions are being returned to Samoa upon expiry of their sentences.  

 “Then (they) are released back into an unsuspecting community which is blissfully ignorant of the criminal past of these people who walk and live among them.  This is the proverbial insertion of the wolf into the sheep’s den.”

We couldn’t agree more. Anywhere else in the world, there would be an uproar. We see it everyday in the news. When ever a known sex offender moves into a neighbourhood in New Zealand for example, the residents become alarmed. They immediately make noises to alert the authorities that they are not happy. The same should happen here.

We’ve said this before and we will say it again. We acknowledge that protecting the human rights of an offender is obviously an important consideration.  

But we believe that must come second to the need to protect potential and innocent victims. Besides, the sexual predators we are talking about are seasoned offenders. Some of them are extremely sick.

Don’t get us wrong, the Register will not solve all our problems right away. 

But this is the real world and we know from countless studies carried out around the globe that perpetrators of child sexual abuse rarely change their ways without treatment and therapy by trained professionals, and supported by some degree of monitoring in local communities. 

In other words because there is none of that available in Samoa, it is absolutely futile to hope and pray that these people will somehow change their ways. 

One of the biggest points against the Register is the rights of sex offenders to privacy. We find this absolutely ridiculous.

What about victims? What about innocent girls whose right to grow up free from being abused are taken away by these monsters?

To say that Samoa has a sex crime problem is an understatement. We have a crisis on our hands that requires immediate action. 

Not a week goes by without cases of rape, incest, molestation, sexual assault being heard by the Court. What does that tell us about our country? 

Think about those girls and women whose rights are violated every time this happens. They are daughters of Samoa. They are sisters, daughters, wives, mothers and they deserve better. 

They have a right to be protected, which is a very basic human right they are entitled to and we should grant them.

This is why we believe the time is right to set up a Sex Offenders Register. 

At this point, we applaud everyone involved in making this happen. We want to congratulate Justice Vui, the government, the Samoa Law Reform Commission and everyone who have been advocating for this.

We have had enough of seeing our young girls being destroyed by these ruthless animals. It’s time we stand up and drive them to where they really belong – behind bars. Have a safe Thursday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 June 2017, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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