Samoa Observer

APIA, Samoa (May 15, 2011) - The latest human rights report from Amnesty International provides some interesting reading. Released at a time when the world’s attention is fixed on human rights issues in the Middle East, Amnesty International Report 2011: State of the World’s Human Rights, is a must read.

If anything, it should make us stop, sit down and think twice about what’s happening around us.

Never mind what’s happening in the Middle East. We want to look closer to home and do a reality check of ourselves. When we do that, we should find that there is reason to be alarmed.

The report for example says the people of the Pacific are struggling against oppression, tyranny and corruption.

Of 157 countries it looked at, the report card for some of our neighbours is nothing to be proud of.

In Fiji for example, the report says the military-led Government continued to rule without a constitution, and repressive Public Emergency Regulations remained in place.

Reports on torture and attacks against freedom of expression escalated, where critics of the Government, including members of the Methodist Church, were amongst those targeted.

What’s worse, there is no media freedom under the gun-totting dictator, Frank Bainimarama.

Papua New Guinea is no better. The report reveals that violence against women and sorcery-related killings are widespread. As if that’s not bad enough, torture and ill-treatment remains a massive concern.

In the Solomon Islands, thousands of people living in informal settlements were denied access to basic services including clean water and sanitation.

Violence against women remains a growing problem.

What about Samoa? The report doesn’t quite say.

Suffice to say, we are not problem-free ourselves. While we are not going into details today, let’s just say the word "oppression" is one we should seriously think about.

Samoa looks good from afar but upon closer inspection, it’s slowly rotting at the core. It’s not as pretty as they make it out to be. In this country today, there are so many people who not happy with how things are done and yet they do not have the guts to speak out. They are quietly afraid.

Ruled by a one-man band, there is nothing to stop Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his government from doing whatever it wants. Look at the latest change they are ramming through.

Interesting enough, the Samoa Law Reform Commission (SLRC) has stepped forward to endorse the change.

Says the Commission, "After consultations with stakeholders and independent research the SLRC recommended to the Prime Minister and Attorney General that the interests of the community and government will be better served by the shifting of the IDL from west to east. The shift will enhance the social, cultural, economic and commercial interests of Samoa."

Which stakeholders did the SLRC discuss the change with? And where is the "independent research" on which the SLRC based its recommendation?

And let’s say the SLRC during its consultations found the change would not benefit Samoa, would it have been bold enough to advise the Prime Minister accordingly?

In any case, any debate now is pointless since the time zone change is already another "fait accompli" for Tuilaepa and the government. And now they have the backing of the all-powerful "independent" SLRC, who can oppose them?

But we’ve got to admit that our problems pale in comparison to those of countries like Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

Still, the message from Patrick Holmes, of Amnesty International Aotearoa NZ, is as relevant to Samoa as anywhere else.

"In the 50 years since Amnesty International was born to protect the rights of people detained for their peaceful opinions, there has been a human rights revolution," he says.

"The call for justice, freedom and dignity has evolved into a global demand that grows stronger every day – and Pacific leaders must heed the message that those most affected by abuses, will be the driving force behind social change."

Samoa does not operate in a vacuum and the oppressed do not stay oppressed forever.

Have a pleasant weekend and God bless Samoa!

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