New Year, same old challenges and the new lighthouse
The first couple of days of 2020 have had a bit of everything. If it’s any indication of how this New Year is going to pan out, we need to strap ourselves in as we are in for another rollercoaster journey for the next 12 months.
Let’s start with the good news. Thirty minutes into the New Year, Samoa welcomed her first baby when Nevaeh To'a was born on the first day of 2020.
Being the mother of the first baby at the start every New Year is always an exciting possibility for all expecting mothers who are due on any of those days.
But for Angela Toa from Falefa and Saanapu, Nevaeh’s birth came with the added bonus of being Samoa’s first baby for the new decade. And she was more than prepared for it.
"Her name is Heaven spelled backwards," she said. “This one was hard, I almost gave up but thank God we have been successfully been separated. As a family, we are extremely grateful and excited.”
We can’t blame them, who wouldn’t be excited? Obviously the mother’s joy was contagious as it was spread throughout the hospital ward that morning.
"Girls rule the world," smiled Registered Midwife, Tiara Tu’ulua, who helped deliver the baby. She’s right; it is beginning to look that way in many regards in Samoa today.
Needless to say, Baby Nevaeh would have been one of several babies born on the first day of the year. New-born babies always represent a sign of life and hope. They bring perspective and tremendous joy to their parents, families and friends. Samoa’s first babies of this decade are no exception.
But while they were celebrating at the hospitals, out there at Lufilufi on the east coast of Upolu, one family could only look on as their home was completely demolished by an inferno. The fire went off at around 3am on Wednesday at Poloai Mila's residence. Nothing remained when dawn arrived. We have since been told that the fire was caused by a mosquito coil.
It was certainly a sad start for the Milas in 2020 but the best news was that no one was killed. Six people – most of them young children – all escaped unharmed.
It could have been very tragic. Poloai said the fire made its way through the house quicker than anyone could properly react that they only had time to wake up everyone to get out.
"All my seven grandchildren that live here with us are safe," he said.
Elsewhere, the first few days of the New Year would be remembered for all the wrong reasons by some people.
The Police made many arrests with people behaving badly with offenses such as people being armed with dangerous weapons, using insulting language, violence and drunk driving. The number of arrests made by the Police this year has already exceeded the total number of arrests they made for the same period last year.
Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, said the most common offence was drunk driving.
“The majority of these arrests were cases from drunk driving [but also included] being armed with a dangerous weapon, insulting words, assault, causing injuries, careless driving, and causing intentional damage," he said.
“We also responded to 737 calls for service throughout the period of 23rd of December 2019 to the 2nd of January 2020. Most of the calls were for general policing such as domestic cases involving alcohol.”
Speaking of alcohol, Fuiava noted that the majority of offenses involved alcohol, pointing out that there is a need for specific programmes to deal with alcohol use or misuse to be exact. Which is an excellent point.
Looking at the amount of alcohol that is readily available in this country today, it is imperative that at the start of 2020, the leaders of this nation need to do something to curb alcohol abuse. Statistics don’t lie and they point to the fact that the majority of violent-related problems are connected to alcohol abuse.
But that’s understandable. Here in Samoa today, for such a small country, the choices in terms of alcohol readily available are astonishing. What’s even scarier is that a lot of it is hard liquor being disguised as soft drinks, which could be purchased, by anybody and everybody.
Shopkeepers do not demand IDs when people purchase these products. In some cases, young children are sent to the store to buy them. This cannot be normal. The increase in the number of arrests made by the Police this year point to the fact that something needs to be done.
But this just one of the many challenges we are staring at for 2020, demanding real leadership and urgent action.
And what is the Government’s plan for the New Year? Well if you were hoping to get an idea from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s New Year address, you would be disappointed. Apart from talking about the location of a new lighthouse, he didn’t say much else.
“The lighthouse will resemble the Cross of Jesus Christ that will be visible from Apia City and its peripheries,” Tuilaepa said.
“The Cross will guide all journeys at sea including fishermen when they enter the shores of our country. Named as the Apia City Look Out – Way of the Cross, the place will be used for peaceful meditation in the Word of God, and for families and visitors travelling to Samoa to view the landscape of Apia City during the day and at night.
“Above all the Cross symbolizes our commitment and faith in God, whom Samoa is founded upon.”
Well that’s nice. Perhaps he is waiting for the “secret whisper” during the Week of Prayer and Fasting, starting today, before he could tell us a bit more. In that case then, let’s just wait and see!
Have a wonderful Sunday Samoa, God bless!