Commission of Inquiry begins

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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ACCUSED: Suspended Assistant Commissioner Samoa Mulinu’u is accused over his involvement in alleged tampering with witnesses.

ACCUSED: Suspended Assistant Commissioner Samoa Mulinu’u is accused over his involvement in alleged tampering with witnesses. (Photo: Samoa Observer / File)

A Cabinet appointed Commission of Inquiry investigating the conduct of two senior members of the Police Force and a former Officer started yesterday.

And it immediately dismissed the hearing of the case against suspended Corporal Hillary Eteuati.

His lawyer, Donald Kerslake, submitted that the allegations against his client before the Commission are the same charges of a case pending in the Supreme Court. 

The Commission of Inquiry is headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai. Members include Tavui Annie Laumea, Namulau’ulu Sami Leota and Apostle Viliamu Mafo’e.

While Apostle Mafo’e is not in the country, Lesatele noted his absence will not stop the work of the Commission given the parties involved need to get back to work.  

The case against former Inspector Luatimu Samau has been rescheduled until his return on 23 June  2017. The counsels assisting the Commission in its proceedings are Sefo Ainu’ū and Alesana Tumua of the Office of the Attorney General. 

The Commission then proceeded with the hearing against suspended Assistant Commissioner Samoa Mulinu’u who is represented by Afa Lesa.

The first issue addressed was in connection to Eteuati. 

Mr. Kerslake informed the Inquiry that his client Eteuati was charged with two counts of assault, willful damage and being armed with a dangerous weapon. The charges were dismissed in the District Court. 

The National Prosecution Office filed an appeal with the Supreme Court and the matter has yet to be called for the appeal.

“Now the Police has re-filed the same charges against Eteuati before the Commission of Inquiry and this is the third time they have charged Eteuati in relation to one case. 

“The District Court, Appeals Court and now the Commission of Inquiry.” 

Mr. Kerslake said his client was unfairly treated.

Lesatele pointed out that it appears from his submission  the Commission does not have the authority to proceed with this case given the same matter is pending in the Supreme Court. 

Another issue Mr. Kerslake brought to the Commission’s attention is attorney costs. 

He said if Eteuati needs to be called in to testify, that can be arranged. 

Former Inspector Samau, informed the Inqiury he has resigned. 

He also inquired for the Court to dismiss his case and make him a witness against suspended Assistant Commissioner Samoa. He said he has resigned and that this will somewhat have a bearing on seeking employment in the future. 

Samau who appeared in Court pro-se also pleaded with the Court for consideration in his case, as he’s seeking employment with the Prisons. 

Lesatele noted in confirmation the Minister of Police, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has already confirmed that Samau had since resigned from his Police post. 

However the Commission needs to investigate whether the allegations against you is confirmed and were his actions conducted when he was on duty. 

Representative of the Attorney General’s Office, Ainu’u informed the Commission that its true they Commission does not have the authority to investigate a case that is pending in the Supreme Court, however the Commission under the Terms of Reference submitted to the Commission, allows them to “look into” the allegations against Eteuati. 

Ainu’u further pointed out that Eteuati was suspended and then he was reinstated to his job, yet the appeal is pending against him. He argued that Eteuati is needed to testify before the Commission on other issues and also why he was reinstated when the case is pending against him. 

Kerslake in response to the queries posed by Ainu’u, noted that Eteuati’s reinstatement was not a decision he could make. “The decision to reinstate him  was made by higher ups, he was suspended, reinstate and then was suspended again. My request to the Commission, to consider that he [Eteuati] cannot reinstatement himself back to work, it was done by Acting Commissioner at the time.” 

 

RULING ON ISSUES 

Lesatele denied the dismissal motion by Samau, removing himself as a defendant. The Commission however has granted the motion for his travels and will return before the Commission on June 23, 2017. 

Regarding Eteuati, Lesatele ruled “the Commission will not investigate the case against Hillary [Eteuati] and the reasons will be set forth in a written ruling that will be submitted for cabinet.” Regarding the Kerslake attorney fees to be paid by the Cabinet, has been denied. The hearing continues. 

 

PUBLIC NOTICE 

Last week a public notice was published in your newspaper which indicates the Commission will continue its proceedings with the aim to submit its report to Cabinet before the end of June. 

The Commission of Inquiry into circumstances and conduct of two (2) members of the police service and one member who has resigned, namely:

1) The Commission will inquire into the conduct and performance of Samoa Mulinuu:

(a) in handling of the criminal matter against Sililoto Peneueta; and

(b) his involvement in alleged tampering with witnesses in the District Court case of Police v Mauga Precious Chang. The Commission will also inquire into allegations against former Inspector Luatimu Samau, in relation to:

(a) alleged witness tampering in the District Court case of Police v Mauga Precious Chang; and

(b) his conduct and performance in discharging his duties as a police Inspector and whether it breached the Police Code of Conduct. 

The Commission will further inquire into:

(a) the circumstances giving rise to the criminal charges laid against Corporal Hillary Eteuati; and

(b) whether his conduct breached the respective duties of a police Corporal. 

Furthermore, the Commission will inquire into the circumstances whereby Corporal Eteuati and Inspector Samau were charged with disciplinary and criminal charges respectively, were suspended and reinstated even though the respective charges against them had not been determined. 

The Commission of Inquiry is open to members of the public who wish to make submissions regarding the matters outlined above. The inquiry will be conducted in Samoan.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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