Some of the illegal weapons surrendered to the Samoan police in the 2016 gun amnesty.
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA- MONDAY 07 MAY 2018: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi has down played the concerns raised by the Commissioner of Police, Fuiavailili Egon Keil about Samoa being contaminated by the illicit arms and small weapons trade.
Tuilaepa believes that is a problem for other nations of the world being fed by the arms and weaponry business because there is a market.
“We have strong laws on hand protecting arms and as for small weapons trade, we do not benefit from it because we do not have people buying and selling of arms and weapons,” he said.
In the recent Regional Pacific Island States Parliamentary Workshop to advocate for Improved Compliance with the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) at Tanoa Hotel, Fuiavailili emphasized the dangers posed by this business in the Pacific.
He emphasized the need for the Pacific leaders and all stakeholders to stand together against the threat. He then presented data of the arms trade and weapons trafficking through the Pacific, which caused alarming concern from other Pacific representatives.
Samoa Parliamentarian Faumuina Wayne Fong was very direct in questioning the role of the United Nations in controlling the arms and weapons trade.
He believed that the UN has a different approach towards the Pacific and big countries dealing in arms and weapons trade.
“They (UN) say one thing for the Pacific, and says something different for the super power countries,” said Faumuina.
For the safety and security of Pacific families, he wanted to know how the UN can control America’s arms and weapons trade from spreading to the Pacific.
He also raised concern over the US influence in the Pacific and the fact that the US territory, American Samoa is just a stone throw away from Samoa.
No need to bring ‘big players’ to the Pacific meetings
The Solomon Islands Parliamentarian, Dr. Cedric Alependava asked the UN and other stakeholders to invite the big players to be part of the Pacific meetings on such issues as arms and weapons trade.
However, this was not accepted by the other Parliamentarians who were concerned that these ‘big players’ such as the United States, Russia, Japan, France, China and the United Kingdom may turn the meetings into their favour.
Tuilaepa agreed that the big countries who are engaged in wars should not be part of the Pacific discussion on arms and weapons, because there are no wars in the Pacific.
The concern however, is that although Samoa is not involved in the arms trade, these weapons do pass through the Pacific islands including Samoa.
UN can suppress supply if demands are reduced
The United Nations Resident Representative in Samoa, Dr. Simona Marinescu in response to the issues raised during the meeting that the UN can only suppress the supplies of arms and weapons, if the demands are reduced.
She said the UN is working closely with countries to reduce their demands through dialogue and engaging in addressing those issues together.
She believes that should that space of political dialogue disappear, what is left for all parties involve is to be able to continue to cooperate and talk to one another.
“I just want to add one line that I think is extremely important to be put on the table, we can only suppress the supply if we reduce the demand. We live in a market economy, so unless we look into where the demand comes from, and what exactly is the social economic, environment or the turbulence of the conflict are, we will never have a full grasp of understanding and control of reducing the supplies, and that is what the UN is trying to do,” said Dr. Marinescu.
Tuilaepa however said it is hard for the UN to get countries in the Security Council to work together on such issues.
“There is power to veto any decision and even members of the Security Council get shot at, and that is why it is difficult for the UN to act,” said Tuilaepa.