The tragedy at Malifa, domestic violence and why families matter

The tragedy at Malifa on Saturday afternoon where two people were left dead and a petrol station torched sent chills down the spine. That is the undeniable truth.

But it did more than that; the news immediately reverberated across Samoa and the world raising more questions about an issue this country has known for a very long time yet it appears we only continue to talk about.

The affliction is domestic violence. Indeed we have been discussing this for as long as we can remember. Millions of tala have been spent on workshops, trainings, seminars, studies and so forth. You would think that by now we could at least have made a dent on the issue.

Now don’t take us wrongly; we should never deride the value of discussing these problems. We believe it is a lot better that these issues are brought to the discussion table as opposed to being ignored completely by our community.

But what are the results of all this talking? When do we draw the line between talking and action? We say this because looking at what happened during the weekend, people are dying and yet we are still talking.

What’s even more alarming is not just the extreme nature of such offending, it is also the details and what they are telling us. Judging from what we saw last Saturday, gone are the days where instances of domestic violence were kept hidden in the privacy of homes. These days, it appears that perpetrators are no longer scared of committing crime out in the open in broad daylight.

It wasn’t that long ago that a husband attacked and stabbed his wife in broad daylight in the middle of the Apia township for all to see. Similarly, the tragedy at Malifa unfolded very publically with the added dimension of social media. We live in a digital age where the use of mobile phones to disseminate information, whether good, bad or ugly, has become second nature for many people. This provided another disturbing dynamic on Saturday where it appeared that people were more concerned about posting videos and photos on social media rather than caring about what was happening.

From what we’ve been told so far, Police Commissioner, Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil, is adamant that the incident was a the result of a domestic violence dispute. It appears that the suspect burnt the gas station, killed his wife before he took his own life. This is such a dreadful story. It is arguably one of the worst domestic violence killings by a long stretch and tragedy in every meaning of the word.

Today, spare a thought for the families involved. We can only pray for peace and comfort in these difficult times. We also remember the unwilling victims of this tragedy in the owners of the petrol station who suddenly find themselves in a very unfortunate position all because of uncontrollable rage and anger.

But these are the challenges of our time.

As this editorial has already alluded to, domestic violence is not new to Samoa. While the killing at Malifa last Saturday was dreadful, it is only one of many horrific domestic violence incidents we have seen and reported in the pages of this newspaper over the years.

There is no doubt that as a people, as a nation this tragedy has once more raised so many questions about what is going on in Samoa today. How ironic that this had happened at the end of the same week when this nation hosted a massive international conference where the protection of innocent women from such abuse was discussed.

But that is just one of the many ironies, isn’t it? Let us remember that Samoa as a nation is supposed to be founded on Christian principles and our Samoan culture of respect, care and love. How did we get to where we are today?

How did certain people become so cruel and ruthless in a country of such friendly and smiling people? What has happened to the sacred relationship and respect between a brother and sister that the Samoan culture is so well known for?

This is why the incident on Saturday sends chills down the spine with the idea that Samoa has become such a sick society. These cases are not normal. While we agree that domestic violence incidents are not new and they are not confined to Samoa, the “prevalence” of such heinous criminal offending involving some of the most vulnerable members of our community, women and children especially, should worry us all.

Should we stop talking about it? No. Should we stop all the workshops, seminars and whatever effort is being done to keep the conversation going? No.

What we must understand is that while all those efforts are important, it will take a lot more to stop domestic violence than well-weaning outcome statements, communiqués, frameworks and talkfests.

We need to deal with the root issues and these root issues delve into matters of morals, values, culture, behaviours and our religious beliefs. These have been part of us for so long.

Why don’t we begin at home? Why don’t we start with our families? Why don’t we focus on the relationship between parents and their children? Why don’t we pay more attention to raise boys who will grow up to be law-abiding citizens who love, care and know how to control their anger? The scriptures tell us to train a child in the way he should go and when he grows up he will not depart from it.

What do you think? Have a safe Tuesday Samoa, God bless!







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