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Street vendors blamed for 'unsafe' reserve

More members of the public have come forward expressing their concerns about the behaviour of street vendors, and how their congregating at the Malaefatu reserve in downtown Apia is making the area unsafe.

A man, who works within the vicinity of the reserve but refused to give his identity for fear of reprisals, claims there has been an upsurge in crime in the area and hanging out at the reserve is discouraged.

He alleged that street vendors threatened him when he tried to stop them from littering in the reserve, which they now use to publicly consume alcohol.

“There are many issues arising in the park. People have been throwing rubbish around the area and instead of being a place for having fun, it has been taken over by the youth as a spot for alcohol consumption. Recently I had been threatened by the street vendors relaxing in the area,” he told the Samoa Observer. 

“I was going about my daily business and was informing the public to mind the rubbish on the grounds, when a street vendor within a group of six shouted out disrespectful words and started threatening me."

Attempts by members of the public to stop street vendors from consuming alcohol in the reserve and refrain from playing loud music have often been met with a violent response, according to the man who has now taken it up with the Police. 

“I took my concern to the Police and they are currently investigating this matter. There should be more police officers stationed in the area because it has been awhile since police officers have been patrolling the park."

But street vendors do not only gather in the reserve with shop fronts in Apia a popular spot.

For 68-year-old businesswoman Moe Lei Sam, who lives in Apaula Heights, street vendor children who continue to sell after hours are always vulnerable.

“There were many street vendors in front of my shop that would stay there for hours. I worry about this because when fights among them break out then that would cause serious damage to my shop,” she said. “Shouldn’t these kids be in school? Police aren’t paying attention to this issue. The blame also falls on the parents and the Government. If these kids are saying disrespectful words to the people of the public, then it’s their fault for not teaching them any manners.”

She warned that the number of street vendors in Samoa is increasing and the Government should focus on addressing the social issue.

“The number of street vendors are rising, not declining and this is something that the Government should focus on because these kids are the future of Samoa,” she added. “The kids, however, have no choice but to sell their stuff before the end of the day because their parents will get mad if they fail to do so. The blame falls on the parents and the Government.”

However, 43-year-old Vaitele-uta resident Faolo Utumapu says it is a much more complex issue as it touches on the education of the child and poverty-hit Samoan families.

“There is a law that all kids should go to school but there is also a need for money for families to survive. I think the education sector should work together with parents,”she said. “The child needs to learn how to write their name. Going to school will also teach them manners but most of that is taught within the family.”

Mrs Utumapu said the families of the street vendors expect them to sell all their items and failure to do so can attract an angry response.

“The public should be kind to these kids because they are stressed about the fact that if they don’t sell everything they were told to sell, then their family will be angry with them. That is the exact reason why you see huge amounts of children street vendors still out working at night.”

The Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development has been contacted for comment.

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