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R.S.E. "blacklist" is "shooting ourselves in the foot"

The Government's decision to name and shame nine individuals puts Samoa's Seasonal Work Programme in "poor light".

That's the opinion of Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale, a businessman and a Village chief of Falealili who has helped countless villagers secure employment in the Regional Seasonal Workers Scheme.

Tuatagaloa said it is "hard to reconcile the logic of nurturing a Programme that will benefit individuals, family, village and country while at the same time bringing shame to individuals, family and communities through a press release of this nature".

He compared the Government's decision to "shooting ourselves in the foot".

On Tuesday, the Government’s Press Secretariat released a statement, which named and shamed nine individuals and their villages.

The individuals, according to the statement, have been sacked for theft, alcohol consumption, fighting in a bar, stealing beer and dangerous behaviour.

Others have been blacklisted for extramarital affairs, smoking marijuana, bullying, extortion of money and taking unauthorised leave from work.

Tuatagloa pointed to the impact the Government's blacklisting will have in individual families, with wives and children being told and publicly announced that their husbands and father engaged in extra marital affairs while overseas.

"While extra-marital affairs should not be condoned, who are we trying to kid because it happens in the best of societies," Tuatagaloa said. 

"It makes up that huge pile of ‘dirty laundry’ that are better kept locked up in the family closet, not made known to the world," Tuatagaloa said.

He said if the individuals pledged accountability for their choices before a village council, then it is probably fair for the villages to be named and shamed along with the individual.

"Our programme takes full responsibility for its selections and even though the mayor and church pastor may give their support, they give it in their ‘private’ capacity but not representing the Village. 

"In these circumstances, it would be unfair for the village to be ‘stigmatized’ and other young men and women from within — to be deprived of R.S.E. engagement — because of the failure of a village member, who of his own accord applied to Government or our Programme for R.S.E. engagement," he said, in an email to the Samoa Observer.

Tuatagaloa added that their programme is fully aware that should a R.S.E. worker from a village be sent home, any new recruit will be disallowed for a period of two years. But the current seasonal workers from that village are still allowed to return, if all parties are in agreement.

He said the Falealili Seasonal Workers Program has penalties for those who are sent back home, depending on the seriousness of the offense.

The seasonal employment expelled workers list included Falealili residents, and Tuatagaloa shared how their programme dealt with each one.

"The two boys who broke into the canteen are being stood down for two years but they are still in our Programme and being ‘counselled and mentored’ back to acceptance."

He said this decision was made based on the notion that no one is perfect and therefore deserve another chance; through engagement and participation, there is remorse and change.

"In the case of boys from Vaovai and Matautu, they were  brought into our Offices with their Parents and Village Mayors, the day after they returned. Everyone was given the chance to speak. 

"The Committee meted out the punishment of a two-year ‘stand down’ and the respective Village Councils leveled hefty fines on the families concerned," he told Samoa Observer.

He added the other worker from Poutasi was "forgiven" by the village council because it was leading up to Easter Week - a time for "forgiveness".

"His circumstance was different in that he had attended a friend’s birthday without seeking permission from his group leader.  

"After he left  a Club where he and his friends had been drinking, he was set upon in the Carpark by some Tongans and sustained some minor injuries."

The fact that the employer gave their clearance for the individual to return next year, speaks of their high regard of him as a worker and that he was a victim of unfortunate circumstances, said Tuatagaloa.

"His only serious offence was not asking permission of his Team Leader to attend his friend’s Birthday Party. His case will again come up when Interviews for the next Season are held."

Tuatagaloa explained the Falealili Seasonal Workers Program takes a holistic approach to the engagement of men and women for seasonal work opportunities overseas.

He said it is about building people and communities, and that the unfortunate reality is that there will certainly be challenges caused by people.

"We make wrong choices that we have to account for but there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way of dealing with offending and the way we choose should depend on the circumstances at hand. 

"In the same way that the penalty we choose for an offence should reflect the severity of the offence as well as the impact it will have on all concerned," he said.

"‘Shaming people into submission is not an option in our programme but about ‘building’ people," reiterated Tuatagaloa.

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