United Nations calls for anti-violence action
The United Nations has responded after it was called out by the caretaker Prime Minister for “being silent” over comments allegedly made by the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Chairman that some say is sexist.
In a public statement released by the Office of the U.N. Resident Coordinator, the international organisation called for Samoa to be ready to support all actors in their efforts to stamp out violence in all its forms including threats, intimidation, verbal and physical harassment and abuse.
“The United Nations stands with all women of Samoa and remains committed to ensuring women feel safe in addressing gender-based violence and voicing their concerns when threatening and aggressive language is used,” the statement circulated on Friday reads.
“Equal and cohesive societies are a prerequisite for peace and a fundamental goal of the United Nations.
“Any form of discrimination including offensive and defamatory language affecting women is unacceptable and incompatible with Samoa’s commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (C.E.D.A.W.) and the human rights agenda which will be assessed later this year through the Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review.
“The Secretary-General has urged all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women and girls a key part of their national priorities through commitments such as the C.E.D.A.W. and the Beijing Platform for Action.”
Samoa’s significant progress was noted, with the U.N. saying the nation has advanced the full and effective implementation of the international tools, articulating its resolve to fulfill, plus protecting and respecting women’s human rights.
“Nearly 20 years after its first pledge, Samoa must sustain progress by upholding democratic values such as gender equality and women’s unrestricted participation in the country’s public and political life.”
A peaceful march is being planned for Monday afternoon to rally against all forms of violence and the protection of women’s identities with women advised to wear white puletasi and orange adornments.
But a number of women have already questioned the motives of the march planned for Monday with former top bureaucrat and Regulator Lefaoali’i Unutoa Auelua-Fonoti among those who have questioned its motives.
There are fears the march could be politically-motivated and is being promulgated by people who support the Human Rights Protection Party.
A video interview recorded a fortnight and featuring F.A.S.T. Chairman La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt is at the centre of the furore.
La’auli is alleged to have said in the video that women who continued to make defamatory statements on social media against his party leader will be the subject of sexual violence.
But independent analysis by this newspaper confirms that the Gagaifomauga No. 3 did not mention sexual violence during the interview, nor did he make reference to H.R.P.P. women supporters which is the other allegation that has been circulating online.
The only reference to the H.R.P.P. women supporters and violence was made by a TV3 reporter who was doing an interview with the caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi in a separate program.
She sought comments from Tuilaepa in response to the comments that La’auli purportedly made.
Laauli denied the claims saying his comments were misconstrued, but Tuilaepa said said La'auli clearly sought to incite violence against women and continued to call out organisations headed by women for being silent including this newspaper.
However, the Samoa Observer published a 1058 word feature piece that gave air to the accusations on 1 July prior to his statement last Wednesday.
Tuilaepa said it is not only the Samoa Observer who is deliberately keeping mum on the issue but also a variety of organisations formed for the advancement of women, suggesting a conspiracy of silence.
“Not only that, but the [Samoa] Victim Support [Group], not a word; the S.U.N.G.O. [Samoa Umbrella for Non-Governmental Organisations], not a single word; and yet they are headed by women.
“It’s like they have closed their eyes to this. And these women in the United Nations, that were in the forefront for women’s rights to be recognised in Parliament. None of them made a sound.”
La'auli clarified that the comments were not generally made to all women but rather four particular women who had been discovered to have been involved in social media fakery.
He also flatly denied claims that the comments he made "implied that he wanted women to be sexually abused by untitled men."
"What I meant was that we will take those women to court after all of this. We are looking into the matter and we will find out who is involved and take them to court," he said.
"The malae I referred to was the courthouse. When I said turn up the lights on them, I meant they will be made known and will suffer the consequences of their actions...that's the plan.
"Soon, we will identify these people and women and take them to court for the whole world to see that they are the ones behind those fake pages, making false claims and accusations to defame this party, our leader, and me.
"I did not mean that we would sexually abuse them or do the things they have said I was proposing to do to the women of Samoa.
"And I did not say women in Samoa, only those who are hiding behind fake accounts and enjoy this habit of spreading false rumors and accusations on social media.
"I mean, why would I propose such a thing to be done to women of Samoa? I have the utmost respect for women in Samoa.”