2019 countdown, working on the building blocks

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Alexander Rheeney

Isn’t it a nice feeling starting the week on a high, thanks to Samoa beating France early yesterday morning to win the Challenge Trophy, on the second day of the Emirates Airline Rugby Dubai Sevens.

And not forgetting the Bigger Better Network—Digicel Samoa—bringing Christmas quickly to our doorsteps, by switching on the lights on its towering Christmas tree in Apia’s central business district last Friday evening.

Another cruise ship docked at the Matautu wharf yesterday, the fourth vessel in a month, to confirm Samoa’s growing popularity among cruise tourism operators. The German cruise ship AIDAaura had over 1000 passengers and is on a 117-days around-the-world cruise.

With Christmas just around the corner, it is perhaps time to start going through the paperwork on your desks, clearing out the old files and begin plans for the approaching holidays to close out the year. 

The school and college graduations, which begun in earnest last week and kept our reporters and photographers on their toes, has become a daily reminder of how the next generation of Samoan leaders are preparing themselves for the world and its challenges.

But how can we expect some of Samoa’s next generation of young leaders to prepare themselves to become well grounded in global affairs when the basic foundation of their lives—their parents and their homes—are in tatters due to the failure of local institutions to address evil such as gender-based violence?

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi does have a point when he called out parents, chiefs and church ministers during his weekly media conference last Thursday. 

“When parents hear their children and spouses argue, they should address it then and there. Also the family chief should call in the couple and counsel them as chiefs do.

“You should open your mouth and talk to your children when there is domestic violence situation. The church minister also has a role to play and must counsel the couple, just as well with the chiefs,” he said.  

The chiefs and church ministers in the Samoan cultural context are institutions in their own right and play a critical role in maintaining order in the community, consequently the appeal from the P.M. for them to become more involved and provide solutions to a growing crisis.

According to Tuilaepa, there are mechanisms in place to address the issue—involving the parents, chiefs and church ministers—hence it becomes everyone’s responsibility to provide solutions.

To put the matter in perspective, it would make sense to go back to the final report of the Office of the Ombudsman’s two-year inquiry in family violence. The report, released in September this year, estimates that 90 per cent of intimate partner violence in Samoa goes unreported. Of the 90 per cent of unreported partner violence, the Samoa Family Health and Safety Study of 2006 found 86 per cent believe their abuse is normal or not serious. Even worse, 70 per cent believed their abuse was justified. 

The findings of the inquiry were the result of consultations, submissions, data gathering and surveys, which among other things, reveals family violence in Samoa has become a new normal.

In fact the “get involved” call by Tuilaepa directed at parents, chiefs and church ministers—which can be described as community institutions that can be used to address violence—is not the first and most likely will not be the last.

Samoa’s Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma made the same appeal in September this year, on the eve of the launching of the two-year inquiry report.

“It doesn’t have to be a problem like in many countries that is attacked by the government alone.

We have very strong traditional authorities in the rural areas, in the villages, that can play a very important and effective role in this,” he said, in an interview with Radio New Zealand International.

It is time to act, if there is any hope of saving a child from the long-term effects of living, in such an environment.  Research and case studies warn that male children who witness their father beat their mother are seven times more likely to be violent as adults—than those who did not witness such violence. The children of Samoa need healthy role models, whom they can look up to and respect. 

Now that we have started the countdown to the end of the year, it would not hurt doing a postmortem on our own performance as parents in the last 12 months, and identifying areas which could be worked on for the benefit of our children and their future.

What do you think? Have a wonderful Monday Samoa and God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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