The man of the moment

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The Member of Parliament for Urban West, Faumuina Wayne Fong, is absolutely correct. Last week in light of a video showing three young boys beating up a helpless man at 3am on the streets of Apia, Faumuina became the voice and face of reason. 

He immediately called for tougher laws to curb such behaviour, urging both government and individual parents to step up to the plate to find a solution to this long-standing problem.

He went further. Faumuina suggested it was time for the Police to charge parents, to hold them accountable for the behaviour of their children on the streets. 

From his own experience, he believes the parents are equally responsible for their children’s behaviour. He had a point. You see one day, the M.P. experienced what many of us have probably seen in relation to these vendors. 

At McDonald’s Restaurant where many of these children congregate, when he didn’t buy anything from a young vendor, the kid punched his car from the back. 

“I got out to tell the kid off and the mother jumped in and I told her to discipline her child,” said Faumuina. “What that tells me is that the parents are around where these kids are and that is all the more reason for them to be charged.”

Faumuina has got a point. The parents are responsible for these children and it is under their instructions that the children are there.

But there is a snag. The day after Faumuina raised the point, Assistant Police Commissioner, Fauono Talalelei Tapu, not only confirmed that there is no law to stop young vendors from roaming the streets however late at night, there is also no law where parents could be charged.

He said the only law that exists is the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture’s Compulsory Education Act, which makes it illegal for children to be on the streets before 3pm.

“After that there is actually no law that forces young children to stop selling and be on the streets late at night,” Fauono said. “What I usually do when I see them out late is I advice them to go home because it’s late but we cannot stop them because there is no law about it. The only way to solve it is to amend or change the law to address that issue.”

Well the solution seems pretty simple enough. If there are no laws to stop this madness, the relevant authorities should draft new laws or amend the current laws. Laws after all are made by men and they can be changed. In other words there is no law set in stone.

The good news is that there seems to be a willingness on the part of the government to move to solve this mess quickly. 

A few days after Faumuina made the call, the Office of the Attorney General confirmed it is looking at amending the law. Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff confirmed that his Office is looking at an amendment to prevent children from selling goods from 5.30pm onwards. 

 “We have been working with M.W.C.S.D (Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development), M.E.S.C (Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C, and the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L) on the proposed changes,” said Lemalu. 

“As soon as all the relevant consultations and processes are completed, this amendment will be given to Cabinet for their consideration.”

We can hardly wait. We believe this matter requires urgent attention and the sooner these changes are made the better.

In the interim, Lemalu raised a very interesting point. He said the Education Act 2009 prevents children from selling goods during school hours.

 “Those that are to be held accountable for breaches under this law are parents,” said Lemalu. 

Fine. If that is the case, why have we not seen a single case against these parents since 2009? It’s not as if these street vendors have just emerged from a hole overnight. We have seen over the years countless cases of young children on the streets during school hours instead of being in a classroom. So who is supposed to enforce this law? And why haven’t they done their job?

Here’s the thing even if the laws are changed, what’s the point if they are not enforced effectively? But then that’s typical of what’s happening in Samoa today isn’t it? We have so many wonderful laws but they remain wonderful in the law books because of the lack of enforcement.

Judging from the attack carried by these young vendors on Beach Road, it’s obvious we have a crisis on our hands. We cannot afford to ignore it. The fact is if nothing is done now, we are heading for a future nobody wants.

Which brings us back to the man of the moment, Faumuina.

“Can you imagine what will happen if this is not controlled?” he said. “I cannot imagine the things that we have not seen on video that these kids are doing. 

“The reality is that people see this problem everyday but don’t know what to do about it. They are depending on the Ministries who are not doing anything about it.”

We couldn’t agree more. What do you think?

Have a wonderful Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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