Sunday Samoan: Sex crimes, truth and pride in Samoa

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Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi ... "the people in the media ... are badmouthing the country." Image: Screen shot/PMC

By the Samoa Observer Editorial Board

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s insistence on telling the media how to do its job is unnecessary. Coming at a time when there are so many pressing issues he should be dealing with as the leader of this nation, we humbly suggest he should focus all his energy there.

The simple truth is that Tuilaepa has a job to do, and that is to run the country, and we, in the media, have ours. He should concentrate on his job and allow us in the media to do the same.

People who know and follow the political discourse in this country would understand that it is not unusual for Prime Minister Tuilaepa to get involved in all spheres of life in Samoa.

READ MORE: Media should play down sex crimes: PM

From sports, religion, villages, families to government affairs, he comes across as a one-man authority who perhaps feels it is his divine purpose to say whatever and expect people to swallow it without question.

On the pages of the Weekend Observer yesterday, a story with the headline “Media should play down sex crimes: P.M.” was a typical example. It immediately drew attention especially during a week when Samoa has hosted the 84th Extraordinary Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, where Tuilaepa himself had repeatedly called on the public to “break the culture of silence” about sex crimes and violence against women and children.

Away from the international audiences where he had been saying all the right things to keep them happy, when Tuilaepa fronted up to the local media, he was singing a different tune. He turned on the local media for reporting sexual crimes, saying they depict Samoa in a negative light.

“It doesn’t happen often but the problem is the media enjoys publicising these cases involving an elderly man doing filthy things to his daughter,” Tuilaepa said.

Reports read overseas
“The cases are probably nowhere near 10 in a year but it’s being reported week in and week out. These reports are being read by those overseas and it sounds like this is all that men in Samoa do from Monday to Sunday.”

Tuilaepa continued that when he sees reports being televised about sexual crimes he switches off his TV set.

But he didn’t stop there. ilaepaHe also criticised comments made by a student during the 84th Extraordinary Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child that his peers were being beaten up on a regular basis.  He said the student’s comments sounded like something that was rehearsed.

“This is what the people in the media are doing and it includes those that are in the programme [CRC] who are badmouthing the country,” he said. While he did not name anyone in particular, he said such people have no pride in their country.

Well that’s tough, isn’t it? How does a person speaking their mind about what is happening to them come across as someone who has no pride in his/her country?

Besides, what about this nagging thing called the “truth”? When it comes to sexual crimes, the truth is staring at us unblinkingly everyday. Down at Mulinu’u at the halls of justice, judges of the courts have been telling us for years that sexual crimes against women and young girls have been rising dramatically.

What’s more, the details of these crimes have become more disturbing by the day since they involve the violation of the sanctity of the homes, where women, girls and young boys should be protected from harm.

Bigger threat a concern
If there is a bigger threat that we should be concerned about as a nation, it is an attack on the value of families, including sexual crimes. Charity begins at home and if our homes are dysfunctional as a result of these attacks, this will obviously have a flow on effect on the nation as a whole.

Which is why we should be talking about this stuff. It is why we should bring it out in the open and come together to find solutions so we could strategically deal with them.

Does that mean we have no pride in our country? Absolutely not.

If anything, it shows how much we care. And when it comes to the protection of our most vulnerable citizens, women and children, we should not let pride get in the way. We should swallow that silly pride and humble ourselves to do what needs to be done.

Who cares about what the world thinks? We say this knowing that these problems are not confined to Samoa. They are happening all over the world, in some places much, much worse.

What’s important is that we are being proactive and instead of trying to bury it under the mat, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his government should take the lead to address them. How? By being transparent and accountable about it. That’s all it will take.

This is also why Tuilaepa’s suggestion that the media should turn a blind eye to the reporting of sex crimes is absurd. That stuff only happens in countries where censorship dictates what the media can and cannot do. As far as we are concerned, Samoa is a democracy, not a dictatorship.

Talk to JAWS
Perhaps Prime Minister Tuilaepa should spend some time with the president of the Journalists Association of [Western] Samoa (JAWS), Rudy Bartley and listen to what he has to say. In response to the Prime Minister’s comments about the work of the media, Bartley makes a lot more sense.

“Some issues may not be favorable to some but reporting on it highlights the need for such issues to be addressed by government and responsible authorities,” Bartley said.

“In exposing such issues, this opens up discussion and possible solutions to these problems. The people’s right to know is the driving force in finding solutions to many of the challenges that Samoa is facing. Exposing issues which may be unpopular is one way of making the government act in finding solutions.”

Precisely. We couldn’t agree more.

What this country should insist on is the truth.

Pride comes before the fall and if we look at all the problems Samoa is having to deal with today, they all point to a misguided sense of pride which masks the truth so that all appears well when things are really rotting beneath the surface.

What do you think?

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

This editorial was published by the Sunday Samoan newspaper today.

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