Stay alert and beware

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 18 December 2015, 12:00AM

I received an email from an old friend yesterday. She is a proud and patriotic Samoan living in Europe who was rather concerned about the developments around the world in relation to security and safety.

She could be homesick, perhaps thinking of home as Christmas nears, but she made some valid points we thought it would be worth sharing with you today in light of recent developments in Samoa.

“Who says that Geneva, where the UN Headquarters are located and the fact that Switzerland being neutral to all the fights against Syria, is safe?” she wrote.

 “Well last week was a very scary week as it was the first time ever I have seen police armed with shotguns at the train station and airport. It is the first time ever the UN HQs here have put up bars on all entrances to UN offices.”

The letter goes on to make the point that when it comes to terrorism, safety and security threats, no one is safe. Which means that everyone is vulnerable, regardless of where you are. And that includes remote Samoa in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.

It is our belief that this issue is largely overlooked on these shores.

Now and then when the issue of terrorism and security comes up, it’s not unusual to hear people dismiss the prospects of Samoa – and other smaller countries – being attacked.

Even to the point where our leaders make fun of the issue.

Just three weeks ago for example, Prime Minister Tuilaepa told the nation during his media conference that when it comes to terrorism, there is nothing to be alarmed about because no terrorist would ever want to blow up Samoa. He added that his only concern was the prospect of members of the Tautua Samoa Party linking up with a terrorism organisation.

Of course most people greeted the comment with laughter.

We thought this was rather sad when we consider the terrible suffering being caused by terrorism around the world.

History – old and recent – exists to tell us that nowhere is safe. Which is why we’re of the opinion that terrorism should be regarded as a threat and leaders would do well not to laugh at it as if we live in a vacuum.

The reality is that we don’t. We share a planet with nearly eight billion other souls – including terrorists. It is a habitat that has been vastly reduced by technology so that the world has become a global village where anything is possible through the touch of a button.

Which brings us back to the letter I received yesterday. Speaking of safety, security and terrorism, my friend warns that we shouldn’t be complacent, especially as Samoa continues to take incredible steps in embracing the digital era.

In this country today, social media has become a very powerful tool.

Take Facebook for example. It is a wonderful tool for networking and communication if the user is careful about the information he or she is sharing and who has the privileges to view it.

The trouble is that very few people understand the perils of this tool, when that information lands in the hands of people you don’t want to know this information.

And that’s the issue the concerned Samoan wanted to highlight, with the view that it is better to warn and inform our people so that they are aware that terrorists are also moving to use social media to carry out their dirty deeds.

“It is why I keep posting messages on Facebook that if you do not know a person requesting friends do not accept it,” she wrote.

“I saw a few guys with funny names befriending some of our women and I sent private messages if they know these guys.

“The answer was no, so I asked to block them. These people are finding ways to enter as many countries as they can and do their work from there!”

Surely they’re not interested in Samoa?

Really? Yes, really.

So the concerned Samoan wanted to advice “all Samoans using Facebook and other forms of social media not to accept friend requests from people they don’t know, especially where the names are not Samoan.”

And if you’re still not convinced, well you might be after reading the last part of her letter: “A couple wanted to even join our village page, and lucky I am the Admin so I just blocked them. I check and they are Syrians. So my advise to our border control team is to be extra careful.”

Indeed, the message should not just be for our “border control team,” it should be for all Samoans here and everywhere else in the world. We say this because with a couple of projects in the pipeline to improve Internet speed and accessibility in Samoa, caution must be exercised about how it is used.

In other words, there is no doubt in our minds that users – especially people who aren’t savvy with these things – must be well informed about the pros and cons. And when it comes to dealing with strangers, it pays to apply the old rule of thumb that if you don’t know someone, he/she is not your friend.

What people must know is that with technology these days, virtually anyone can be monitoring your activities and the information in your posts. Many of us don’t think much about these things but we live in an evil world where some very evil people prey on anyone and everyone, especially when we are ignorant.

So be alert, be aware and stay safe, Samoa!

As for my friend in Europe, thanks for the letter and warning. You are appreciated. God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 18 December 2015, 12:00AM

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