Samoa Observer

APIA, Samoa (July 8, 2009) - Whether senior Electric Power Corporation officials have noticed the cardboard box that had allegedly been "stolen" has been returned, it is not clear.

What is clear is that it has been. It was returned Saturday last week by the man accused of "stealing" it, Ulisese Ioane Fepulea’i, himself. For doing what he has been accused of however, Mr. Fepulea’i has lost his job.

What is also clear is that this is – without a doubt – the first time in the history of this country that a public servant has been fired for "stealing" a lousy cardboard box.

This is [not] to say no one has stolen a cardboard box before. People just took them if they were lying around for days, or they were given them free of charge.

According to Fepulea’i, the one in question has been sitting outside the EPC office under the balcony for days; it has been empty all that time, and because it has a wooden frame, people have sat on it as they waited to enter the office.

What’s worse, Fepulea’i, who has been working as a night watchman for the EPC for eight years, said since the box had been from "Rothmans," it had "reeked of tobacco." He also described it as "trash." But for "stealing trash" his services were terminated on 22 June 1999. (Sunday Samoan, 5 July 2009.)

In any case, the cardboard box we’re talking about was "stolen" from inside the EPC compound at Tamaligi. Although Fepulea’i admitted he had taken it home, he denied he had stolen it.

It was taken to his home by an EPC van when it delivered workers to their homes, he revealed. He was one of those workers. "Everyone saw it," he said. "That was not stealing."

But if he had not stolen it, why had he taken the box to his home? In reply, Fepulea’i shook his head in confusion. He later said he was confused because he had already replied to that question when he had described the box as "trash."

Others would too. They would be confused since they would also know that in most cases, empty cardboard boxes are simply "trash."

They become rubbish the moment they’ve been emptied of their contents, which is when they are superfluous, redundant, unneeded, and yes, "trash."

That’s when supermarkets cart heaps of them away to the Tafaigata Rubbish Dump, and to save petrol other shops just give them away. In other words, nobody, until now, has been fired for "stealing" a cardboard box in this country.

But what a harsh penalty for taking a lousy cardboard box home? Who wants to take home any lying-around cardboard box; anyone? Doesn’t this silly dispute look so dubious anyway it inspires the feeling something fishy is hidden there somewhere?

What is happening in this country anyway? When some senior public officials make off with thousands of Tala from the public purse, or fool around abusing public properties without a care in the world, their cronies look the other way then later turn around and pat them on the back.

And yet when a lowly public servant takes a stupid cardboard box home they fire off intimidating letters, then they gather around to make sure the poor chap is properly crucified.

And now that the lousy cardboard box has been returned, what are the big boys going to do in response? Shouldn’t they change their minds, say all is forgiven, and welcome Mr. Cardboard Box back?

What are they going to do with the box anyway? Frame it up then stand it outside the door into the CEO’s office to warn everyone who comes in and out, not to remove any lousy object from the EPC compound now, and forever?

Incidentally, electricity blackout occurred again at Vaitele on Monday. It did twice last Saturday. And almost not a week has gone by during recent months without blackouts occurring.

Today, these blackouts have become chronic, destructive to expensive equipment, and a hindrance to economic growth. When will they end?

So shouldn’t more effort be put into ensuring these blackouts are stopped from recurring, instead of harassing and then firing poor workers for allegedly "stealing" lousy cardboard boxes? Tell us what you think.

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