The act is barbaric and inhumane

By The Editorial Board 20 September 2023, 10:00AM

The 1.12 min video footage that was taken last week of a man in Savai’i being hog-tied and carried on a stick in a village has been doing the rounds on various online forums after going viral last weekend.

The actions of the villagers to mete out justice in that form were unorthodox, to say the least, and in every sense a breach of the victim’s human rights. The villagers at that time were playing judge, jury and executioner which went against the norms of the rules-based society that we live in and in the process allegedly broke Samoan laws.

Finally, an article (Beaten, tied and carried away) in Monday’s edition of the Samoa Observer, reported on the incident in Lefagaoali'i village in Savai'i and how an elderly man was hospitalised at the Tuasivi Hospital after he was beaten by the village’s untitled men, hog-tied at the arms and legs and carried away.

Samoa’s Police Commissioner, Auapa'au Logoitino Filipo told this newspaper that the elderly victim was banished from the village twice but he refused to leave and consequently was forcefully removed from his house by the village’s untitled men at the orders of the village council.

"Therefore, according to our preliminary findings, the matai of the village instructed the untitled men of the village to remove the man and to punish him for refusing to accept the decision of the village council,” said Auapa'au.

In yesterday’s edition, an article (Police charge 12 for hog-tied man) reported on the charging of 12 men in relation to the Savai’i incident. According to the Police Commissioner, the 12 charges included one charge of attempted murder against a matai, who was identified by the Police as the one who allegedly called for an umu to be prepared, so the elderly victim could be “cooked”.

So how is it that rural communities in Samoa – whose Constitution states that as a sovereign nation is founded in God – continue to practice these barbaric acts of targetting innocent citizens in this day and age? 

Close to 200 years after the first missionaries arrived on our shores to bring the Gospel to the islands where does this practice of hog-tying a man sit in terms of our moral compass and humanity? 

Is this normal for a modern-day democracy such as ours based on the multiple human rights conventions and treaties that we’ve signed with various international bodies as a member of the global community of nations?

While we ask the above questions because we believe a person or a couple of persons should be held responsible, the spotlight should also be put on the institution at the community level which issued instructions for such a course of action, in this case, the village council of Lefagaoali'i village.

If it is true that the village council of Lefagaoali'i village believe that they have the power to issue such draconian orders to the aumaga (untitled men) to do what they did then where did they get their powers from?

The actions of the village council last week, which resulted in an elderly citizen getting hospitalised due to sustaining injuries from the ordeal, should be called out as it could set a precedent for other village councils.

If the village council for Lefagaoali'i village felt that the man has continuously defied their orders and village rules there is a legal way of going about exercising their authority instead of resorting to such inhumane acts. This is through the Village Fono Act that can validate and exercise their authority to oust him in accordance with the respective village customs and traditions. 

The 12 men who were charged by the Police over the incident in Savai’i last week – including a matai who had the more serious charge of attempted murder and is now in custody at the Tanumalala Prison awaiting trial – remain innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

The upcoming court proceedings of the 12 suspects should be followed closely by the current Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) administration, due to the wider implications it could have on Samoan society, especially when traditional and modern systems of justice clash due to the promotion of communal rights over individual rights or vice versa. 

The bottom line is there are legal avenues that the village councils can explore to avoid criminal charges and ensure that the rights of the individuals are protected as well as their communal rights to pass down punishment are done in accordance with the law.

By The Editorial Board 20 September 2023, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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