We Should Ask “Why are Our People so Desperate to Find Employment Overseas?”

Broken glass and shoes left behind in the aftermath of the incident that saw 2 people hospitalized with serious injuries.

A former head of Samoa’s Public Service Commission is calling for a more in-depth look into the reasons behind the horrific incident earlier this week at the EFKS hall, that that saw two people critically injured and another seven needing hospital treatment.

“We should seek to understand why our people are so desperate to find employment abroad, despite the hard working conditions there, and despite having to  be away from loves ones,” says lawyer and former Chief Executive Officer of the Public Service Commission and the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development.

Fuimapoao Beth Onsemo-Tuilaepa leading a planning session with the Samoa Rugby 7s

Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa says Samoa needs to have a citizen-centred public service, where people are put first, as well as at the centre of planning and program implementation.

The registration process for Samoa’s various seasonal workers programmes in Australia and New Zealand came to an abrupt halt on Monday morning when police could not control the thousands of people who flocked to the EFKS youth hall at Mulinuu, desperate to be registered for an opportunity to work. The Ministry and Caretaker Minister Hon Lautafi Purcell have since expressed disappointment at the behaviour of an uncontrollable crowd who pushed and shoved to try and enter the hall where registrations were being held.

People travelled from across Upolu to Mulinuu, desperate to be registered.

Fuimapoao Beth however says officials should not put the entire blame on the people and instead seek to understand the deeper issues from their perspective, put themselves into the people’s shoes.

“Instead of pointing the finger, perhaps exercise some maturity and own some, or even most of the responsibility for what happened;

“It is my humble view that what happened this week is a story of people who are struggling and have struggled for a long time;

“They do not see any opportunities here in Samoa, and are desperate for a chance to earn what they see as comparatively decent wages compared to the offerings here;

Fuimapoao says the thousands of people who turned up for registration acted in desperation to avoid missing out on these opportunities.

“Unless you’ve been in their shoes, and have known that kind of desperation and hopelessness..

“Perhaps seek first to understand before judging,” says Fuimapoao.

“Imagine yourself in their shoes, and then seek to understand why“.

Tens of thousands of Samoan families have benefitted from various temporary employment opportunities through programmes such as New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme that has been in effect since 2007, and Australia’s more recent Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and Seasonal Workers Program (SWP).

In response to the incident on Monday, caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has since apologised to the nation saying the incident could have been avoided, and highlighted areas where he says, there could be more equitable distribution of the limited spaces.

Another response to the incident has been from Olo Fiti Vaai who expressed his views on EFKS TV, that seasonal work programmes ought to be stopped altogether and focus instead on creating local job opportunities.