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Op-Ed: Justice tossed to the ground

On April 12, 2012, the Multi-Disciplinary-Team Against Family Violence held a conference which brought together the Culture, Church & Law, asking how they can work together to combat family violence.

One of the guest speakers was a high talking chief who represented the Samoan Affairs Office. What was so alarming with his presentation was his admission to supporting child abuse through disciplinary actions by beating them, and advocating how he gets over on the law--by beating his children where the bruises cannot be seen.

His statement elicited a sporadic and uncomfortable smattering of laughter among the prestigious audience that represented every agency and Non-Government Organization that protects victims of child and family violence.

Was his public admission on this very important forum a preview of the horrors to come in this day and age? Were all the Chiefs and pulenu’u in Samoan Affairs Office well represented in their attitude towards child violence that day?

Case in point: High Chief Tupusemanuiaaeaualetupusemalaia Muagututi’a Muaivasa Tauoa and his sister, the grandmother of the victim in the Tone Pulou case have taken the ifoga to a higher level of perversion in our Samoan culture. Accepting the money and the fine mats from the offender as an apology for his repeated rape of a child is like accepting payment for sex that was provided by a pimp.

This is another form of selling and bartering children or better yet ‘Domestic Trafficking’  for personal gain. The victim’s ordeal has been rendered as an inconvenience and she has been dehumanized at the cost of $500.00

O le mea tonu lava lea e tau o le lafoa’i o le amiotonu i le eleele. (Justice tossed to the ground) —Tone Pulou and his family have chosen the tainted way to escape his punishment and wipe away the real issue.

 He raped a 13-year old child continuously until he was caught and like a coward he fled the island to Australia though Apia and was eventually arrested and extradited from Honolulu.

HC Muagututi’a and his sister are of the same blood and mind. They are not the parents of this child. Yet our cultural respect for our chiefs and unquestioned filial love for our elders has turned justice into a sewage pit.

A sexual violation of a child, who is forced into motherhood and sold dirt cheap, buried under tons of vile excuses, ignorance and cowardice is being sanctioned by our own Samoan culture.

Through the Muagututi’a and the Pulou families, the Ifoga has been reduced to a mockery of justice designed to cover its own bets. Because High chiefs and elders are instigating this travesty, are we still proud of our nation whose twist in the culture protects child rapists, pedophiles and murderers? Will our honorable High Chiefs and Elders on the bench sustain such a notion? Will our members of the clergy remain comfortably silent behind their pulpits?

Tone Pulou’s repeated rapes were not done in the public’s eye nor were they done in front of her family. It was all done in stealth to rob this child of her innocence and youth.

So why is there such a parade of public family discussions followed by accepting bribes and apologies for the sake of village or family peace? Meanwhile the rapist is far removed from the illusive danger from the victim’s family or whoever would have the courage to champion her?

For the sake of the readers, this child was personally violated to the core and every fiber of her young being. Is there not enough compassion by the offender and his family to face and prostrate themselves publicly before this child victim, to give her a sense of justice and closure, that she is a valuable human being worthy of respect?

Is it so offensive for our culture to force the offender to do his time as a man rather than forever being a  smelly odor in the sight of her family and all of Samoa as the ‘ teacher rapist’ whose family got him off, a stigma he alone searched for himself?

 This farce of an ifoga is a foul stench full of ignorance that is going viral, infecting every Samoan in the universe. The rape of this child was NOT an accident. It was premeditated and continuously executed for his own pleasure.

 I am appealing to the elders and High Chiefs who are in the position to make a difference in our laws to be proactive in executing justice, rather than choosing to just cluck their tongues and turn away. 

The so called restitution is not about money or ie toga. It’s about true remorse and doing the right thing.

This is just one example of how the law will submit under the Pinocchio rule of a wooden heart and a long growing nose… or is there any hope for the future of our children? The children we keep heralding in almost every speech — that they are the hope for tomorrow and  the future?