About a “history of integrity, experience and success”

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

It is a rare story but then it is also true. 

It says the government has hired the services of two New Zealand “independent prosecutors” to assist with the trials of its senior officers, Director of the National Prosecution Office, Mauga Precious Chang, and Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil.  

Confirmed by the Office of the Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff, “the arrangement is based on consultations with respective department heads and the Minister of the National Prosecution Office,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The main concern, the statement points out, is that the arrangement “will ensure fairness in (the) proceedings.”  

It goes on to explain: ‘The principle of equality of all before the law, and fairness of the proceedings are such, that the matters require an objective view from those not involved in any part of proceedings.” 

The prosecutor who is assigned to Ms Chang’s trial is Satiu Simativa Perese; it is understood he will appear in court when the proceedings start on 13 September 2016.

The one who is assigned to Fuiavailili E. Keil’s trial is Meredith Connell, the Crown Solicitors office which is in Auckland.

As Police evidence has shown, it all began when Precious Chang was involved in an incident where she was accused of negligent driving causing injury and dangerous driving.” 

That evidence said: “Police informed the Director in May shortly after the incident involving three damaged vehicles, that an investigation had commenced and charges were possible.” 

Indeed, “it was further confirmed to her a few weeks ago, that charges were now likely.

“However, the matter was then referred for an independent review of the evidence.”

And lastly, it said “the decision to charge is the result of a Police investigation where the file was then reviewed by an independent prosecutor.” 

At that time, in a statement, the Police Commissioner said the decision to charge Precious Chang followed an independent legal opinion sought by the Attorney General’s Office.

And that “opinion”, as it turned out, was being sought from the Auckland based Barrister, Satiu Simativa Perese.” 

Indeed, Satui had apparently been engaged on the Attorney General’s advice, who felt that this would “ensure independence, and (that) he will work directly with the Police.”

Fine.

Still, it was about that time that Police Media Officer, Maotaoalii Kaioneta Kitiona, told the Samoa Observer that “(Mauga Precious Chang) was remanded at liberty until her court appearance.

However, somewhere along the line, Police officers in uniform, and members of the Tactical Operation Squad (T.O.S.), were stationed outside Precious Chang’s office, waiting to execute an arrest warrant.

The man in charge is said to be Superintendent, Su’a Lemamea Tiumalu, assisted by Sergeant Magalo Pule, and in the end, Precious Chang was arrested and charged with dangerous driving and negligent driving causing injury.

The story says that as she was being led away by Police officers, Chang refused to comment saying she would deal with the matter through her lawyer. She did not say who her lawyer was.

However, the charges made against Precious Chang were confirmed, and later still, the Samoa Observer was told she was to appear in court, on 13 September 2016.

And as it turned out, at the time, Police Commissioner Fuiavailili, was facing charges at the time including “unlawful detention, perjury, providing false statements and disorderly conduct”, which suggested that he also was in trouble.

And that what when Cabinet - having run out of patience most likely - stepped in and suspended both Fuiavailili E. Keil and Precious Chang.

Said Cabinet then: “The decision follows charges filed against the senior public officials.

 “Whereas Commissioner Fuiavailili faces charges including unlawful detention, perjury, providing false statements and disorderly conduct, Mauga was arrested on Tuesday and charged with negligent driving causing injury and dangerous driving.”

Which was when Cabinet delivered it’s ruling, saying:  “Suspension is with pay for an initial period of three months, it was effective immediately, and it was in line with standard procedures to ensure fair and independent review, and resolution of his case.” 

That was 19 August 2016. Two weeks later, on 1 September 2016, a letter from a government department titled “Independent Prosecutors engaged” arrived. 

It said: “The Office of the Attorney General confirms the engagement of independent prosecutors for matters in relation to Mauga Precious Chang and Fuiavailili Egon Keil.”  

The letter also said: “The arrangement is based on consultations with respective department heads and the Minister of the National Prosecution Office,” 

It also said that the “the main concern is that the arrangement will ensure fairness in (the) proceedings.”  

And then it goes on to explain: ‘The principle of equality of all before the law, and fairness of the proceedings are such that the matters require an objective view from those not involved in any part of proceedings.” 

Which leads us back to the involvement of the two New Zealand law firms of Satiu Simativa Perese and Meredith Connell in this little mess, and why Samoa’s Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff, is insisting that they are the only ones who can successfully guide these proceedings along?

Is he suggesting that of the scores of well-qualified Samoan lawyers whose education has been paid for with public taxes, and are now working in government departments all over the place, not one of them is capable of getting the job done the only way he thinks it should be done?

What gave him that idea anyway?

Indeed, what is he talking about when he said “the principle of equality of all before the law, and fairness of the proceedings are such that the matters require an objective view, from those not involved in any part of proceedings”?

The truth is that we have no idea what he is talking about.

All we know is that the system we’re used to is so corrupt so that “the principle of equality of all before the law” might as well cease to exist, and matters (that) require an objective view from those not involved in any part of proceedings”, are now fodder for the poor and the needy.   

In any case, if Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff, is worried that fairness in (the) proceedings is impossible, then perhaps he should listen to his conscience and bow out gracefully.

After all, we have no reason to doubt that those New Zealand lawyers, Satiu Simativa Perese, and one from the law of Meredith Connell, will do a fine job. 

Now the questions are: Why is the government doing something it has never done before?

Indeed, why it is hiring two lawyers – or “independent prosecutors” if you prefer  - to assist with the trials of its senior officers, Prosecutor Mauga Precious Chang, and Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil?  

By the way, Meredith Connell, the Crown Solicitor’s office, is a well respected law firm in New Zealand.

A short history of the firm reads: 

The Crown Warrant has played an important role in our firm since Sir Vincent Meredith was appointed Auckland’s first Crown Solicitor in 1922.

Robert Meredith was the second Crown Solicitor in 1953 followed by Sir Graeme Speight. 

In 1968 David Morris became our fourth Crown Solicitor, followed by Simon Moore. 

In 2015 Brian Dickey became the sixth Meredith Connell partner to hold the office, creating an unbroken lineage that will extend beyond our hundredth year.

As Crown Solicitors, we have prosecuted practically every serious crime before the courts in Auckland for the past 90-plus years. 

It’s safe to say no other law firm in New Zealand can demonstrate quite the same history of integrity, experience and success. 

Now that’s something to really think about.

Indeed, such an illustrious history might have been just the stimulus, that Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff, was looking for, when he picked Meredith Connell for the job.

Please tell the rest what you’re thinking.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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