Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Neglecting underage drinking in Samoa

I have recently become addicted engrossed with the television show Bar Rescue.  I love watching them make something great out of something that has been neglected.  One of my favourite episodes was where the owners were rebuked for serving customers who were already clearly intoxicated and then allowing these people to leave without ensuring they were safe.  This particular episode hit home this week as the court case for Leslie Kohlhase ended.  While I can write a whole blog on the trial and the outcome I choose not to comment on this as I know all parties involved in the case and I don’t want my opinion to hurt people I care for.  What I would like to address is underage drinking.

In almost all the news reports the age of Leslie was mentioned.  I know that her age, 19, has a 1 in it, but the one is not preceded by a 2 as in she was not 21.  The legal age for drinking alcohol is 21 in Samoa.    We are not Australia or NZ we are Samoa so Samoan laws apply, not what happens overseas.  I know firsthand that there is a problem with underage people getting into clubs and being served alcoholic beverages in Samoa.  I know this because I see students I taught foundation English to out at the clubs.  Yes there are signs saying you don’t serve people under 21, yes the police come and walk around the night club at 12 when the club is supposed to close but how many of the clubs have actually been penalized for serving underage patrons?  How many Leslie Kohlhase’s will enter the clubs this weekend and get completely smashed?  

It is the responsibility of the owners of bars, nightclubs and anywhere that serves alcohol to ensure that they are not serving alcohol to underage patrons.  It is also the bar owner’s responsibility to ensure their patrons are safe.  In general regardless of age, you are not ensuring they are safe by continuing to serve them alcohol once it is obvious they are already intoxicated.  Throwing them out on the street when they can barely walk is also not ensuring their safety.  Yes you can argue that once they have left your premises they are no longer your responsibility.  But how bad will you feel knowing that you could have taken someone’s keys and put them in a taxi so they get home safely rather than hearing the next day that they have been run over by a speeding car and killed?  You may not have a legal obligation, but isn’t a moral obligation just as important?

It is the responsibility of the Police to enforce this law by not just doing a walk by when the clubs close but to do spot ID checks and following through with prosecuting locations that violate this law.  If the Police do not feel that this law is a priority then the club and bar owners won’t feel it is important either and we end up with our current situation where our youth act as if they are above the law.

As a parent, I don’t understand where the parents of these kids are.  Because legally they are still kids.  A parent’s sole responsibility is to ensure the safety and well being of their children.  How can you do this if you are not there?  You obviously know they are out if you allowed them the use of your car and because they are most likely not working you probably gave them money too and yet you feel it is appropriate to allow them to go out and break the law by underage binge drinking unsupervised?  Yes I see that your child is getting older and you feel that they can go out, just ensure that they are out with you or an adult whom you trust to be responsible.  In my opinion if you are going to allow your child to participate in underage drinking, which is your right as long as it is in line with the laws of your country, then do so in your home where you know they will not endanger themselves or others.  Even when I was of age to go out clubbing my mother still came to pick me up from a club because she wanted to make sure that I was safe.  Yes your child may get embarrassed and may not talk to you for an hour or so but which is better having them not talk to you or no longer being able to hold them in your arms because they crashed their car into a pole and died?  Parenting is the hardest job in the world it means you will have to say no to your child, your child may not like you all the time but that is part of being a good parent setting boundaries and enforcing them.  

The current underage drinking situation in Samoa is a result of our negligence, not just one person or organization but everyone.  Let’s work together to turn the situation into something great so that we no longer put the lives of our youth at risk.