A Supreme court judge in Samoa has defended the Samoa Victim Support Group, after the organisation known for their child protection services to Samoa, had been slandered by a Samoan news outlet.
Last week, The Samoa Planet posted allegations made by one American woman about the state of the SVSG nursery and the organisation’s adoption process.
Justice Vui Clarence Nelson is no stranger to SVSG’s work having sworn in SVSG’s volunteers and often referring offenders in court to SVSG rehabilitation programs.
The no-nonsense judge, a child advocate himself and a member of the UN committee of the Rights of the Child, says that without a doubt SVSG will have their side of the story amongst such serious allegations.
“SVSG are trying to do their best with the limited resources available to fill a glaring need in Samoa."
“People should not be so quick to criticize absent all the relevant facts. We have yet to hear SVSG’s side of the story.”
He hopes that SVSG will address the matters raised sooner rather than later. He added that the organisation “carry out extremely worthwhile work.”
The SVSG have received a wave of support from the Samoan community in response to the article.
Pacific media outlets Coconet and Fresh TV have published a rebuttal story highlighting SVSG’s limited funding, the positive experiences from the volunteers that work there and also bringing to light the brutal realities that children had faced before seeking shelter at SVSG.
A series of leaked ambiguous email exchanges between the writer of the Samoa Planet article and long term SVSG volunteer Patty Perez, revealed that the intended investigation piece had not been investigated thoroughly – with the writer admitting she had not visited the SVSG shelters once.
The controversial article led to one person posting an image on Samoa Planet’s facebook page – an image showing the face of a child living in SVSG’s shelters. In addition to the post, sensitive details on the victims history were also posted by others. The posts raised the alarm with SVSG who strongly condemn photos of children in their care being shown to the public.
This photo (without the smudge) was posted on Samoa Planet’s facebook page after their article was published.
Ms Perez explains that there are strict rules around taking photo’s of the SVSG children and sharing them on social media because the young victims have pending court cases and hearings.
“I am beside myself,” she says. “The children’s photos are to be protected.”
The photos and details have since been taken down.
Patty explains that the SVSG adoption processes are not dealt with directly by the SVSG founder Lina Chang, but by the Samoan lawyers and the lawyers of potential parents applying from their respective countries.
Since the Samoa Planet article was posted last week, the newly launched media outlet has shown fresh interest in supporting SVSG having later posted articles on ways people can help the organisation.