Ticking the boxes and undoing the good work

It has been a busy week for everyone and most of our international visitors, who came to our shores as delegates at the recent SAMOA Pathway Inter-Regional Conference, are perhaps on their way home to the 50-plus nations that they represent.

The Government of Samoa did a fabulous job as the host of an international conference, again, putting its regional neighbours on notice in terms of its hospitality and ability to ensure the conference participants ticked off the boxes on behalf of their governments from the various Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The The Inter-Regional Meeting for the Mid-Term Review of the SAMOA Pathway released an Outcomes Document as a result of the deliberations.

But a couple of days prior to the convening of the SAMOA Pathway conference, Samoa reaffirmed its commitment to the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (C.E.D.A.W.) through a live videoconference led by Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, the Minister of Women, Community and Social Development. 

Again, another box ticked for this island nation in the last seven days, with Faimalotoa assuring the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that the socio-economic wellbeing of the Samoan people remained at the core of the country’s development initiatives.

The Minister listed, among the Government’s various achievements, the first comprehensive legislative review of the Convention since its ratification by the Law Reform Commission, the constitutional amendment of June 2013 introducing the 10 per cent quota of female representatives in the Legislative Assembly, the passing of the Family Safety Act in 2013, the establishment of the Family Court of Samoa in 2014, and the passing of the Crimes Act and the Labour and Employment Relations Act in 2013. 

The Government remains committed to combatting all forms of violence against women and girls, and it is promoting safe families and communities in Samoa, she added.

But all that good work by the Government - to promote safe families and communities in Samoa through its various intervention programs - could come undone by the recent decision of the Liquor Board to extend the alcohol sales hours of small shops in Samoa. 

Last week the Liquor Board issued a public notice signed by its Secretary, Leatigaga Tiatia Liaina, advising of the new sales hours which went into effect October 25, 2018.

The notice advised that retail stores, hotels and restaurants can now sell alcohol from 6.00 am to 1.00 am Monday to Friday. However, on Saturdays alcohol can only be sold from 6:00 am to 12:00 am midnight. Stores and restaurants are not permitted to sell on Sundays, while hotels can do so but only from 10:00 am to 12:00 am midnight.

While the Minister of Revenue Tialavea Tionisio Hunt came to the defense of the Liquor Board recently, to speak in favour of the decision to extend alcohol trading hours for small shops in Samoa, there are studies from around the world that show the connection between alcohol availability and its impact on local crime patterns.

But we do not need to highlight international case studies to show the link between increasing alcohol availability and local crime patterns. In fact the Samoa Law Reform Commission has called for major reforms and the overhaul of the Alcohol Act.

The reforms were to target the following: the alcohol licensing system; regulating the sale and supply of alcohol by controlling availability; reducing demand of alcohol through taxation and minimum pricing scheme; advertising and sponsorship; enforcement; reducing alcohol-related problems; and responsibilities of parents, village council and churches. The recommendations from the commission were comprehensive and would have had a major impact in mitigating alcohol-related crime.

But the recent announcement by the Liquor Board - to extend the small shops’ alcohol trading hours - appears to be on a collusion course with the Samoa Law Reform Commission and ultimately the Police. 

We note Faimalotoa assuring the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (C.E.D.A.W.) recently that the Government intends to promote safe families and communities in Samoa.

It is the same objective that the Samoa Law Reform Commission and the Police are working to achieve through the reforms they are pushing. Perhaps it is time for the relevant arms of Government to get back to the roundtable and reach a consensus on fighting a common enemy. Have a nice weekend Samoa and God bless. 

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