Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has defended the Attorney General’s decision to acquire another foreign prosecutor to pursue the second round of of charges against the suspended Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil.
Last week, Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, told the Sunday Samoan that a New Zealand lawyer, Nigel Hampaton QC, has been appointed to handle the hearing.
The decision though has been questioned by some critics who argue that a local lawyer could have done the job, saving taxpayers’ money.
But Tuilaepa, who is also the Minister responsible for the Office of the Attorney General, defended the decision.
“When cases such as this involving heads of government bodies arise, the Attorney General will not take it lightly in terms of the preparations that needs to be done,” he said.
“They should bring in the big fish (lauia), they have a lot of experience and they know how to deal with these difficult cases. What I mean is that not all lawyers are the same.”
Tuilaepa said this has always been the government’s policy.
“Remember there was a matter during the time of Tofilau when there was a court case between the newspaper and the Prime Minister,” he explained.
“We brought in the big fish from overseas. These are people whose sphere of expertise could not be found locally especially when we are faced with major issues such as the one that led to the court case against the Samoa Observer for defamation."
“Even the Samoa Observer went and hired a very expensive lawyer from overseas because with these things, you don’t take them lightly."
“So although it is expensive, it is money worth spending in the pursuit of justice and the truth.”
Told that a local lawyer could have easily done the job, Tuilaepa responded: “The government must be prepared to spend money to seek the truth, especially since we are talking about the head of this particular government body. We want to find the truth and seek justice."
“It’s not that we don’t have local lawyers who are big fishes but the government cannot be slack in this matter.”
There are more than 200 charges filed against Fuiava by the Ministry of Police in relation to fire arms and one of incite to murder. The suspended Commissioner has vehemently denied the allegations through his lawyer, Lei’ataualesa Komisi Koria.
According to Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, Nigel Hampaton QC comes highly recommended.
“I can confirm that an independent prosecutor has been engaged to take full carriage of the charges against the suspended commissioner of Police,” said Lemalu.
“He is Mr. Nigel Hampton QC, a highly respected barrister of over 30 years experience. He has been given the file sent to him directly from the N.P.O office and he will appear when the matter is called 20 February 2017.”
Mr. Hampton was the first New Zealand lawyer to work with the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) in The Hague as an alternate member of the Disciplinary Appeals Board. He has also had a stint as a Chief Justice of the Kingdom of Tonga from 1995-1997.