“Rape and incest”, 400 sex workers, well done Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Dr Leao Tuitama!

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

On the front page of yesterday’s Samoa Observer, the picture of Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, was published under the headline: “P.M. Tuilaepa attacks media for reporting on rape, incest!”

His attack was launched during his weekly press conference, where he vented his rage against the media and the Police, accusing them of giving Samoa a bad name around the world, with their repeated media reports on “rape and incest”. 

He said: “These negative reports give the impression that our country is not a place people would like to visit, and this is what the newspapers and radio are doing.” 

He also said: “You hardly hear of these cases being reported in New Zealand or Australia, because their journalists are wise and they are protective of the image of their country.”

Now is that so? How wise are those New Zealand journalists he’s talking about are, anyway? 

He did not say.

What he said was: “In fact, the Police’s weekly reports of the crimes being committed around Samoa that are being reported by the media, are always on rape and incest.” 

He also said: “If there are five sex cases announced during the weekly press conference, the media will publicise them all, each day of the week.” 

And so they should. That’s the media’s job anyway, if Tuilaepa really hasn’t yet been told. 

Now the way we see it, the media should report all the five cases since theirs is to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth - and lies too - wherever in the government they emerge.

And whether or not they’re rotten to the very core so that the odour they’re emitting is a threat to nose and the brain, still they should be published. 

It should be for the simple reason that in doing so it would “give outsiders,” as Tuilaepa has worrying explained, “the impression that Samoa, while it is a small country, there are a lot of rapes being committed here.” 

As for Samoa’s journalists, Tuilaepa is emphatic in his condemnation, that they are a bunch of lazy clowns.

He said: “They are lazy and they don’t go to the Court House to sit in during the cases. Instead, they run to the Police for information.” 

Well, whether or not he agrees, what he’s done was used his freedom to express his opinion to attack the media, - the very body that has made him the very epitome of that freedom - for making public the truth that there is, indeed “rape and incest” in Samoa.

 And for that very reason, even without his consent, he has revealed himself as a hypocrite for trying to hide the very truth, that “rape and incest” are indeed, an indelible part of Samoan life.   

In fact, “rape and incest” are found anywhere in the world today,  and now that they are here in “tiny Samoa”, there is no point in shunning them because they will not go away, but instead accept them and think of them as a sickness like all the other sicknesses, not to be ashamed of.

Anyway, perhaps Prime Minister Tuilaepa has forgotten, but about three months ago, his government was faced with the problem called prostitution.

And if he has forgotten, well let us remind him. 

In early May 2017, a report came through that 400 women were working as sex workers in Samoa. 

Sex workers? Was there a correlation sex workers and rape and incest? That question was asked everywhere at the time.

Incidentally, those 400 sex workers had been identified by what was known as the Multi-country Mapping and Behavioural study of 2016.

The study, according to the Ministry of Health, in their sixth annual report to UNAIDS, had verified that at the time, there were an estimated 400 female sex workers in Samoa.

The report said: “Most women are doing sex work for economic reasons,” and the “payment varies considerably from $50 to $200 tala.” 

It went on to say: “These women have a wide range of clients, including local and foreign men, 58.3% had children, and the majority had no other employment.”

Worst still, the report said the indications were that the number was growing, and yes, there was no doubt it would continue to grow.

Now the pertinent question at the time was: What was it that caused this problem.

Answer: Poverty and hardship caused by unemployment, which in tern, had been caused by the government’s failure to provide the crucial employment, that was dearly needed.  

Later, during Tuilaepa’s weekly media conference, when was asked by the Samoa Observer reporter, for a comment on claims that poverty and hardship, were responsible for the growing number of sex workers in Samoa, Tuilaepa laughed.

A little later, he said: “If that is true, then you shouldn’t find that in America, the wealthiest country in the world, and yet there are a lot of women like that in America.” 

He added: “That’s where it’s wrong. You can’t control this type of behavior.” 

He paused again, and a little letter still, he was laughing, as he was saying: “I know the newspaper is trying hard.

 “It doesn’t matter how far off the issue is. They always try to pull it towards my doorstep. They blame me as the reason for everything.”

He paused again, and then he continued: “That’s why I hardly read their rubbish. I try to free my mind day after day, to avoid being dragged into issues.” 

Undeterred, reporter asked another question: “But isn’t that why you are the prime minister of this country, To solve those issues? Isn’t that your job?”

He did not respond. 

The point is that three years ago, 400 Samoan women were working as sex workers in Samoa, and today rape and incest have been reported. 

What is going to happen next?

We don’t know. 

Still, during an interview at the time with the Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr Leao Talalelei Tuitama, he was kind enough to answer some questions.

Later, when he was asked if he agreed that the UNAIDS report that said 400 Samoan women were working as sex workers in Samoa was “rubbish,” as it had been condemned by Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Dr Leao, replied: “You don’t want me to say that the Prime Minister was wrong. 

“You know, he is the leader of our country; if he says it’s rubbish, then it must be rubbish.”

“So why is our government, and indeed the Health Department, wasting their time with those reports if they’d already known they are rubbish?” he was asked. 

He did not respond.

But the principal author of the report in question, Professor, Heather Worth, did respond.

See below:

She wrote to the Editor of the Samoa Observer.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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