Tourism, stray dogs, and Prime Minister Tuilaepa

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

No one doubts Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s incredible sense of ingenuity. 

Indeed, it seems as if his mind is everywhere at the same time so that you just cannot catch it, no matter how hard you’d try.

But then looking at it closely though, who in his right mind would dare question him? After all, he is Samoa’s Prime Minister, which follows that like the other tyke, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, he is always right.

Two weeks ago, Tuilaepa spooked everyone when he announced he was officially opening a $1 million home for stray dogs, and that the facility would be named the Dog Management Unit of the Police.

And so, are we hearing right that this one million Tala home, is where the Police would be shown how to manage this country’s stray dogs? 

Indeed, are we to assume that they are now quite capable of managing themselves? 

Now isn’t that wonderful!

According to Tuilaepa though, the project is part of the government’s efforts to address the issue, of stray dogs. 

Wonderful!

It is located just down the road from Tafaigata Prison, and it is the result of a partnership between the Ministry of Police, Samoa Tourism Authority and yes, the Animal Protection Society.

And where did the $1 million come from? 

The New Zealand government naturally, it’s the perennially relentless giver of aid that this country may as well admit, it cannot possibly do without. 

Indeed, Tuilaepa explained that “we are indebted to the government of New Zealand for providing $1 million for the construction of the dog shelter, which we are witnessing this morning.”

Reminded he: “Stray and roaming dogs have long been seen as a very negative influence on visitors experience in Samoa.”

He’s right of course, and no one can dispute that. 

He then went on to explain, that “local residents have stories to tell of unpleasant encounters with stray, unrestrained dogs.”  

He’s right again.

That way there is no doubt, that the dog control programme his government has begun with the assistance of the New Zealand government that is, is indeed a move in the right direction.  

Located just down the road from Tafaigata Prison, it is apparently the result of a partnership between the Ministry of Police, Samoa Tourism Authority and, surprisingly enough, the Animal Protection Society.

Animal Protection Society! 

Well, we know quite a bit about that society. In fact, we founded it. The founders were lawyer and businessman, Trevor Stevenson, expatriate Joan Welch, and there was me; our office was at Mrs Welch’s home on the beach at Taumesina, where at any time during the day you were always finding yourself facing the blue, blue sea. 

Later, we asked the government for a piece of land to build an animal clinic and an office on, and Tuilaepa himself, in response, gave Animal Protection Society, a piece of land a Vaitele.

When we took over we built a house there for the animal clinic, as well as an office complete with electricity, so that before we knew it all that was needed for the clinic to start operating, was there waiting. 

And now with the help of an animal veterinarian, we started treating animals that were brought over by their owners with one complaint or another, and everything went as smoothly and slow moving river.

It went on quite well. 

It was at that time that a German tourist who visited the Animal Protection Society’s premises, during the time dogs were being operated on, made what has since remained with me as a rather profound comment, when he said: “Dogs, like people, are from God too.”

And for quite sometime there, we were quite confident that Animal Protection Society was there to stay, and then one morning when we went to work, we found to our shocking surprise that the office was no longer the way it was yesterday; it was a total mess instead and no one was there to explain what had happened to it the night before.

The office was destroyed, and all the pieces of furniture that had been in there the day before were either gone, or they had been smashed up. 

Worse still, the cages where the dogs that had been awaiting treatment had been being kept were smashed up, and the animals themselves were no longer there.

It was a total nightmare.

As for those of us who’d put a lot of our time and effort in the project, with the idea that we were doing our bit to help move Samoa forward, the spirit was broken and at that point, it was quite clear it could not be mended.

Later still, when the government offered its premises at Avele College, for Animal Protection Society to continue its work, once again it was clear that the enthusiasm was no longer there so that soon afterwards, we bowed out completely and the government took over.

And that was how it’d been up to today.

Still, the idea that Prime Minister Tuilaepa is worried that strays dogs are posing a serious threat to tourism, which is why he’s determined to see that the threat is totally eliminated, is just a part of the problem.

The questions though are: How about the so-called stray kids of Samoa who do nothing during the day, and then at nightfall they are out there on the streets where in the middle of the night, they follow their unsuspecting victims whom they attack and rob and then they disappear, in the darkness of night?

Similarly, how about those stray men – the homeless and the vagrants – who, in the darkness of night you see rifling through those trash bins on the footpaths, as they’re searching for whatever’s edible in there that can keep them going, till the next day arrives.

And lastly, are these stray kids, the homeless and the vagrants, not as offensively obnoxious to tourists as those stray dogs, that Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his team of Police Officers, are determined to see wiped out from the face of Samoa?

Still, the one piece of advice from Tuilaepa that we believe should be taken seriously, is this:  “We are at a time where the number of thieves has increased and in a way, these creatures are helping out in that matter, catching those who have this habit of stealing.”

These creatures, by the way, are those dogs.

Now the question is: Can Tuilaepa’s team of dog handlers train their creatures to catch those who are in the habit of stealing from the public treasury, and thereby help eliminate the evil called bureaucratic corruption from making life hell on earth, for those poor, uncomplaining Samoans?  

And so, as our German tourist friend, would keep reminding: “Dogs, like people, are from God too.”

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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