Young burglars, taxi drivers and the Samoan utopia

The headlines this week have been harrowing on the challenges facing our young people today and makes one worry as to what the future holds for them and the country.

A life of crime should not become the bread and butter of our youth, who would otherwise be aspiring for higher and more noble goals in life. 

But the increasing prevalence of criminal cases going before the courts with youth being the perpetrators is a concern and points to a worrying trend.

Young defendants Kanela Kanela of Malie and Amosa Leapai for Malie and Fusi Safata appeared before Supreme Court Justice Lei’ataulalesa Darryl Clarke on Wednesday, according to a story titled “Youth burglaries worry Supreme Court Judge” published in the Thursday, August 27, 2020 edition of the Samoa Observer.

Justice Lei’ataulalesa highlighted a litany of burglary and theft offences that the duo committed between February and May this year, and their failure to undergo rehabilitation and change their lives for the better.

On the flip side our young people are not only committing crimes, but are also becoming victims of crime.

The same edition reported on a 13-year-old girl giving birth at home with her case now the subject of a Police investigation. According to the Samoa Victim Support Group [SVSG], where the pregnant teenager took refuge after she was referred to them for protection, the number of abused children in their care continues to rise.

Early in the week, the Supreme Court jailed a 33-year-old taxi driver from Matautu Lefaga for two years after he had sex with a minor who was 15 years of age at the time of the act. And he was not the only taxi driver offender: a taxi driver of Vaipuna and Moata’a, 38 years of age, was also jailed for two years for sexual connection with a 13-year-old.

Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, who presided over the matter involving the minor, sounded the alarm on the spike in cases of older mature men preying on young girls going before the court.

“It is no defence to this kind of charge that the complainant consented,” Justice Vui said. 

“That is because the law is there to protect young girls from this kind of action by older and more mature men. 

“It is an unfortunate reality that the court sees a lot of this kind of charge these days involving young females.” 

The rise in criminal cases perpetrated by our youth despite frequent warnings from the court, and the recurrence of older mature men being prosecuted for preying on young girls confirms a breakdown in the moral fabric in Samoa.

But how did we get to this stage of our development as a nation where our young men [and women] now see crime as a platform to a better life? And are our laws so lax today that serial offenders including burglars and sex offenders do not see them as a deterrent to their criminals acts any more?

Throw in some basic facts like 98 per cent of Samoans being Christian, and you wonder whether the messages that the faife’au get to deliver in our churches every Sunday are getting through to the masses and acknowledged as well as put into practise.

Interestingly, early in the week a 21-year-old student at the University of South Pacific [USP] Alafua Campus, called for the narrative on sexual abuse in Samoa to be changed from “protect your girls” to “educate your boys”.

"There’s a lot we can do. There’s this saying that people like to say ‘protect your girls’ and those are what the parents say to other girls, and that’s the one thing I hate and so I like to cross that out and say ‘educate your boys’," said U.S.P. student Victory Tuala Tamalelagi, after he attended an awareness programme on sexual abuse run by the Pasefika Mana Samoa Social Service Trust Director, Maria Levi.

Mr Tamalelagi has a point: the narrative on sexual abuse and the treatment of women should change, and the focus should shift to parents and how they raise their sons to become respectful citizens in the community.

Ultimately, we all want is a society that is free of societal evils, and fathers and mothers have a critical role to play in moulding the next generation of Samoa’s young leaders who would work to achieve those goals. 

Let us take on these roles with passion and commitment for a better Samoa.

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