Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor

After almost six years living in Samoa, I have at one time or another been a victim of theft and have had many accounts relayed to me from friends regarding their experiences first hand with theft, more times than I care to remember! I have had clothing, money, food, personal items (including 3 mobile phones) stolen from out of my car, our home and in numerous public places. 

Coming home to find your front door busted open and then to discover your wife’s jewellery, clothing and personal appliances missing is something I’d never wish on anyone, but it has happened here and not only to my wife and I, but also to many friends and acquaintances we have met here.

There are many of us out there who have an opinion on the subject of theft in Samoa and I am sure there have been numerous attempts to rationalize and decipher what causes this problem to persist and why people do it. I know theft is prevalent everywhere in the world and it’s not just confined to Samoa. 

Is it just an unrealistic sense of entitlement that drives theft in this country? Is it a symptom of the strong sense of obligation/influence to the Church? Is it in line with the countless reports of corruption and public service theft that happen within the confines of our government offices? It’s more than likely a combination of all of these and more if we’re to be honest with ourselves.

The thing that puzzles me here in Samoa, is how it has become so commonplace that most people just accept that it’s part of everyday life? Whether it’s theft in the workplace, in someone’s home, at school, within the family setting and even during church services! 

Samoa has always proudly claimed that it is a nation founded on God and it’s no big secret that the majority of Samoans all practice regular attendance to one of the various denominations offered by the many churches of this land.

I have been led to believe one of the most common and accepted principles of the Lord’s teachings comes in the form of a commandment stating something along the lines of “ Thou shall not steal”. Yeah I know, they’re only words printed in a book but most people I know who are regular churchgoers vehemently claim this to be high up in their priorities of personal integrity.

Well, I’m not a qualified statistician and don’t claim to have any comprehensive data and records on the matter but I reckon that there are roughly only half the number or churchgoers that are attending church who actually understand and abide by above-mentioned “Thou shall not steal” line.

Either that or they actually do understand it but don’t give damn about it one bit. Maybe the God-fearing Christian folk who supposedly follow the doctrine of not stealing, actually do have a feeling of “entitlement” when it comes to “borrowing” or “sharing” somebody else’s property or belongings?? 

I’ve often heard someone joke that “everything’s ok for the one doing the stealing because all they have to do in return is to ask for forgiveness on Sunday and everything will be justified”? Joking or not, this appears to be the reality!

Why am I voicing such a strong opinion here you may ask? To be honest I have wanted to publicly voice this for some time but sadly believed it would just fall on deaf ears.

Well I am writing this now because it’s just happened again and I for one, have just about had enough of this going on. I have lost a lot of faith in the faith of others, which is so disappointing and sad.

Just two days ago I had another mobile phone stolen at one of the local supermarkets - Frankie Hyperstore in Vaitele, and although the phone is now all but gone for good, I fortunately managed to witness and verify this theft by watching close circuit security footage from the supermarket’s management office a couple of hours after it was stolen. 

A big thank you to the management and staff of Frankie Hyperstore for your quick and efficient help in identifying the crime. 

What the supermarket supervisor and I witnesses was a blatant act of dishonesty and deliberate theft. There is no other way to look at it. The person who stole my mobile phone performed the theft swiftly and with purposeful intent.

At no stage did they look at the phone and contemplate that is was someone else’s property, it was probably important to that someone and that the right thing to do (Christian or not), was to simply pick it up and hand it to one of the staff?

The whole incident could well have been avoided if I had not inadvertently left the phone on the counter after paying for my goods and I kick myself for being so lax to have let that happen. But that’s not the point, I did not leave it there deliberately and leaving it there unaware does not entitle someone else to help themselves to property which is not theirs, surely?

The young woman who stole the mobile phone had a young infant girl with her who could have been either her daughter or niece. After I had left the supermarket, the security camera clearly shows the woman with the young girl accompanying her step up to the counter.

The young girl notices the phone first and then motions to the woman it is there. The woman proceeds to pay for her goods and then places one of her shopping bags over the mobile phone, clasps the phone in her hand with the bag and walks off with the young infant girl.

That phone was mine. I owned it. I paid for it with money I saved and earned through work. It can always be replaced but it was my phone and it had a whole lot of personal data on it that I use for my work and dates that I hold personal to me. 

You! I’m talking to you, the woman who has no morals or integrity, who stole my phone; you are a thief, you are a bad person.

You are dishonest and you are most certainly a very bad influence on the young infant girl who was with you  when you blatantly chose to disregard any religious teachings about what is right or wrong. You do not deserve any forgiveness at all.

I still cannot for the life of me totally understand what drives a large number of citizens of Samoa to accept theft as a normal part of life here? I will no doubt have people telling me that I am generalizing here and I should not do this. I totally agree. It is not my intention to make sweeping generalisations  about the people of Samoa.

I am half Samoan. I am a citizen of Samoa. I have many wonderful Samoan family members and friends who I know to be upstanding, honest and trustworthy. I love Samoa and love living here.

But there is no escaping and denying that there is a serious problem in this land regarding theft and the sooner we openly talk and discuss this issue at all levels (family, church, schools, workplace and government), the sooner we can address, remedy and reduce greatly this unfortunate and damaging behavior in our society.

I would love to hear others thoughts on this - for or against whatever I have scribed.

Manuia le aso


Samoa Observer

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