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Taxi drivers condemn predatory behaviour

A veteran taxi driver has joined others in condemning the predatory actions of a driver sentenced to two years in prison for having sex with a 13-year-old passenger.

Iuni Tyrell, 54, a single father of five children who drives a taxi for Samoa Lager in Faatoia, notes that “not all taxi drivers are the same.”

“That is not a good place to be in your life (prison) and we need to avoid it. We are parents, we have children and our first priority should be to protect these children. We shouldn’t behave in a manner that upsets other people – like being predators, being sinful, especially us taxi drivers,” he said.

“I have children. I don’t have a wife. I take care of my children myself. I have three daughters and two sons who are twins. This is why I condemn that kind of behavior and reject that kind of behaviour. My duty is to protect my children and the children of others and all the children of Samoa.”

The 30-year veteran makes his home in Vini with his children and has worked at more than 10 taxi stands in his lifetime.

“Our children are our future. We need to be working toward doing good things for Samoa, so we don’t give Samoa a bad name concerning taxi drivers," he said. 

“I am a taxi driver and we shouldn’t be doing these kinds of things. We need to think and put our children first and foremost. We need to operate in concert with the Holy Spirit. We have to protect our young children. 

"The taxi driver who truly loves his children will not behave that way and will protect the children and our entire country. This job is important. We work to make an income to take care of our families, to put our children through school, to care for our children, our families, villages and churches.”

Milo Tupai, a 45-year-old driver at Feiloaimauso Taxi Stand in Apia, said it’s part of a driver’s responsibility to "stave off temptations of the devil":

“It’s not the job. There is nothing wrong with the job. It’s a good job. The problem is when drivers are faced with the temptations of Satan and they cannot resist the temptations while they are on the job – and that is what happens.”

Like Tyrell, Tupai, who is from Taufusi and Moamoa and has one son, points out that “not all taxi drivers are the same.”

“There are some taxi drivers who think like that – like when they see a passenger they catch feelings and Satan takes control of them and they forget about their families and how their actions will affect their lives. That should have never happened. There are drivers who behave that way but we are not all the same,” said Tupai.

“When you drive a passenger, you have to talk to the passenger. So you have to speak to them and treat them with respect. You can’t drive someone and have those kinds of thoughts. In our job, you have to be cautious, you have to be careful and be a professional.”

But he said sometimes the passenger can provoke the driver to feel a certain way.

“There are those passengers who speak mindlessly and provocatively that make drivers have those urges. And sometimes you will meet those drivers who have no self-control,” said Tupai.

“I know there are drivers who think like that toward their passengers and my advice for taxi drivers is to place safety first. It only takes a very short while to make such a huge mistake and it is not worth all the time you will have to spend in prison. We have to think of this going forward.”

Isaia Leilua, a 27-year-old driver at Lulu o le Aoa Taxi in Sinamoga has been driving a taxi for less than one year.

“My job is important because the income I make is used to help take care of my family. Having a vehicle is also important especially, for example, when an emergency arises. It’s very helpful when you have a car in the case the ambulance is late and you can’t get help from a first responder vehicle,” he said.

“That driver – does he have children? Are his parents alive? Because if he has children and his parents are alive, I don’t understand why he would do a thing to such a young girl. It serves him right that he will serve time in prison. I don’t know who owned the taxi he was driving but maybe the next driver will make better use of it. Who knows if he has done such a thing before?  Is it his first time?”

Leilua said if the taxi cab belongs to another person, the owner should look closely at who the taxi is being given to.

“It doesn’t only look bad on the guy who committed the crime. It also gives the car's owner a bad name. A taxi cab is important because it benefits a family greatly. You can make money with a taxi and take care of your family – your spouse, your children and your whole family. What that driver has done is wrong,” he said.

“There are those passengers who present problems for us too. Like the drunk passengers. They say things without thinking and throw the driver off and then something happens. So passengers need to know how to conduct themselves too. You don’t always know who the driver is. Some are ex-convicts and if they don’t care about their actions, they will do it today and then tomorrow again."

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