What would you do if you witness a crime being committed right before your very eyes? For Kanis Sinounou, helping out the victim would be the only logical thing to do.
“I couldn't just walk away from it. I felt like I had to do something,” Sinounou, who recently witnessed a male individual rob and assault two female Russian tourists in Garapan, said in an interview.
Sinounou vividly recounted the night of Sept. 10 when, at about 7pm, he drove his way to Carolinian Utt to come and get his girlfriend Tarlin Castro, who just finished her class, and bring her home.
“While waiting for me, my girlfriend saw that there was something going on and she told me immediately when I arrived. She encouraged me to do something and that's when I saw two Russian ladies, one of whom was pushed down by a local guy while the other was trying to help her friend,” he narrated.
Without any second thoughts about his own safety and well-being, the 38-year-old Sinounou ran toward the commotion and yelled for the male individual to stop what he was doing. Instead, the man punched one of the tourists twice in the face, prompting Sinounou to stop the guy by grabbing him firmly from behind.
“I didn't know it was called a bear hug,” Sinounou revealed, chuckling.
The male individual, later identified as John M. Namauleg, struggled to break free from Sinounou's grip. “He asked me to let him go several times but I told him that I would wait for the cops.”
The cops arrived a few minutes later, and Namauleg continued to resist his arrest that Sinounou had to help the authorities to handcuff the defendant.
“My girlfriend was scared for me. I had my own fears because the guy was in shape and he was strong. But I felt good, too, because I did what I had to do at that time,” added Sinonou.
Sinounou's bravery was acknowledged by government officials and tourism industry leaders yesterday at the Office of the Governor's conference room when they presented him with a plaque of appreciation for preventing the robbery and averting further injuries to the two Russian tourists.
Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos, who called Sinounou a “Good Samaritan” and “hero,” expressed hope that there would be more locals who are willing to stand up and make sure that the CNMI's tourism industry will be protected.
“This is a very good example of us taking care of business here,” said Inos.
Katrina Markova of Saipan Rai tour agency thanked Sinounou on behalf of the two Russian tourists, who already flew back to Khabarovsk in Russia last Tuesday evening. Both tourists, she said, regard their experience as something like a scene from a movie.
“They told me they'll come back because they felt that there are many good people on Saipan,” Markova said in an interview.
Having locals help tourists in whatever way they can encourages visitors to come back, she said.
“If nobody helps them, that's a bad situation. Tourists like to feel that they're welcome and they want to feel at home,” added Markova.
With tourism in the CNMI being a “very fragile” industry, chair Marian Aldan-Pierce of the Marianas Visitors Authority board stressed the need for the community to be conscious of what's happening in their surroundings and to do the right thing.
“If you see someone in trouble-not just our visitors but also our own people who live and work here-if you can do something, help out,” she said.
Aldan-Pierce said Sinounou's heroic act has turned what could have been a “horrible” situation into something positive. She added that Sinounou is a “great model” for the younger generation, whose story will surely be shared as MVA continues its efforts to promote tourism as everybody's business.
“The act of one person is making the CNMI really good out there, so we're very grateful for that,” she added.
Besides the plaque, Sinounou was also presented with gift certificates from DFS Galleria, Pacific Islands Club, and Kanoa Resort. Private citizens have offered as well to help Sinounou, a former tourist bus driver, find a job.
“With or without all these, it doesn't change the way I feel that what I did that night was only the right thing to do,” Sinounou told Saipan Tribune.
He said he's already pleased knowing that his family and friends, particularly her 13-year-old daughter in Guam, are all proud of him.
“Let's be nicer to our tourists. As citizens of the islands, we are their hosts so let's make them feel welcome and happy,” said Sinounou.