Dispersing Public Gatherings Not a Joke Anymore, says Police

Lagi Keresoma

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The young boxers who started it all and led to a frantic phone call for the police to intervene

 

By Lagi Keresoma

 

APIA, SAMOA – 15 APRIL 2020: Fifteen days into the extension of the State of Emergency, police said they no longer put up with public gatherings that break the orders currently in place.

This past Easter Monday public holiday, police were called by an angry caller as what started with only 2 young boys sparring, quickly expanded into a noisy crowd not far from the police headquarters in town.

It went on for a while and cheering started to get louder, then everything stopped when a police van rolled up and two officers approached as the crowd quickly dispersed.

One of the officers told Talamua that they responded to an angry caller, who accused the police of doing nothing to a public gathering happening right under their noses.

The police warned the people at the sparring that they would all be fined the next time.

During the long weekend, the Officer told Talamua that most of the denominations adhered to the COVID-19 State of Emergency orders and the most important church celebrations and ceremonies for Good Friday and Easter were cancelled.

Some churches had only 5 people attend special televised church services as part of SOE orders.

However, there were several instances where church members gathered in numbers to continue the Good Friday night rituals.

Police breaking up the sparring as neighbours added to more than the allowed numbers under the emergency orders

The Officer said people thought that when Samoa was reported to be COVID-19 free last week, they thought things would return to normal.

“As we tried to explain that it would only return to normal once the SOE was lifted, people got angry and took their time to leave the place,” said the officer.

“It got to the point where we couldn’t find this funny anymore, especially that everyone is well aware of the SOE and why it is place,” he said.

Since the SOE announcement on the 20 March 2020 and its extension to four more weeks last week, public and especially church gatherings have been cancelled and only five people are allowed to be in one place at any given time.

However, in the first two week of SOE, police had to visit several churches who went against the orders and continued their services.

The penalties under the Orders include a fine of $200 to $500 tala for individuals and $5000 to $7,000 per company, group and/or business.