Library shining light at Tanumalala Prison

By Fuimaono Lumepa Hald 02 December 2021, 8:51PM

The opening of a new library at Tanumalala Prison on Thursday was announced as a major step towards improving prisoners’ rehabilitation while behind bars. 

The ‘God is Light’ library, endorsed by the Government, was made possible by a co-partnership between the Samoa Stationery and Books (S.S.A.B) and the British High Commission.

“You can judge a nation by the way it treats its prisoners,” said Police Minister Faualo Harry Schuster, in a speech that emphasised the need to improve the way Samoa treats its prisoners. 

The Minister, on behalf of the Government, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, conveyed their sincere gratitude to the co-founders of the project: the Government of the United Kingdom and its diplomatic representative, High Commissioner David Ward, and Afioga Tofilau Fiti Leung-Wai, the C.E.O. of Samoa Stationery and Books.

In a humble address to those gathered for the project's launch, Mr. Ward told the crowd that such initiatives were precisely his role as a High Commissioner: to work with other Governments to make the world a better place. 

The Police Minister said he could not imagine the feeling of being constrained in a prison, he could see the library as a tool that would be appreciated and considered a joy by the inmates. 

But he noted that making libraries available to prisoners and encouraging them to learn through reading was a critical part of the rehabilitation process of the criminal justice system.

“You cannot imprison your mind. You cannot imprison your soul. Those things belong to you,” the Minister said. 

The Minister said the project’s goal of making knowledge accessible reminded him of the work of John Williams, who translated the Bible into Samoan.

“In learning how to read, one doesn’t have to travel. But reading can transform one’s life for the better”, Faualo said. 

Deterring others from committing crime and imposing punishment on those who do are among the pillars of the justice system for dealing with people who commit crime. 

But so too is rehabilitation and ensuring that prisoners, upon release, can reintegrate into society. 

The new library seeks to achieve this goal. 

Mr. Ward said it was his utmost hope that if the project can stop even one person from reoffending, then he would be happy with its outcomes. 

The High Commissioner thanked the Government of Samoa for endorsing the important project. He also thanked the C.E.O of S.S.A.B, Tofilau Fiti Leung-Wai for seeking partnership with the British High Commission. He concluded with a promise of support for the second phase of the project with sincere hope that he would speak better Samoan by then. 

Tofilau Fiti Leung-Wai said her vision to set up the library was to help with the inmate’s rehabilitation programs while in prison and that is evident to the establishment of the first ever library at Tafa’igata prison back in 2018.  

When the prison was relocated to Tanumalala in 2019, Tofilau wanted to re-ignite the idea of opening a library for the inmates as it would offer them an escape and an opportunity to learn about becoming a better person while in prison. 

Tofilau said that her heart is also for the inmates in prison because of her Mother’s work, Nino Stanley-Vito and her Prayer-Warrior group, the Fortress of Faith in sharing about the goodness of God, his Word and offering words of encouragement to the inmates. They visit the inmates on a regular basis to conduct their spiritual sessions. 

Tofilau wrote to the British High Commission requesting a partnership to fund the library and secured their agreement. 

The agreement’s signing was conducted in September to kick start the preliminary project work. Then-acting United Kingdom High Commissioner, Ian Richards, and Tofilau co-signed the agreement at the Commission’s Headquarter in Apia.  

During the Opening ceremony of the God is Light Library this morning, the Ministry of Police and Prisons requested for close to 500 Bibles for the inmates at all the prison facilities in Samoa. 

Tofilau has decided that S.S.A.B. will start fundraising from its Love Christmas Campaign this year (2021) to generate funds to buy Bibles for the inmates following a request from the Ministry of Police and Prisons.  

The C.E.O, Tofilau, acknowledged the dedication from Lithgow Family in Australia, the Brown Girl Woke non-Government group and their Founder Maluseu Doris Tulifau for their donations to the library. 

“I return all the glories and honor to our Heavenly Father that this morning’s opening ceremony was a huge success. I would like to thank Honorable Minister of Police and Prisons, Faualo Harry Schuster for expediting the process to get the project implemented as soon as possible,” Maluseu said.

“I especially would like to thank the British High Commissioner to Samoa, His Excellency David Ward, as well as the former British Commissioner, His Excellency Ian Richards as well as the British government for responding positively to my proposal which is to co-fund the God is Light library project and I look forward to working on the second phase as mentioned by His Excellency this morning.“

By Fuimaono Lumepa Hald 02 December 2021, 8:51PM
Samoa Observer

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