Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has washed his hands clean of claims he disrespected the judiciary when he invited an Associate Minister accused of fraud and forgery to travel with him in the middle of his Court hearing.
“I only give instructions to come with me but I do not own their common sense,” Tuilaepa said.
“Ministers don’t tell me that they will be at this certain place at 7 oclock and will be here and there at 8 and 10 oclock. I have the instructions to come as he is the Associate Minister of my Office.”
Tuilaepa made the comments during a press conference yesterday inside his office.
He was queried about asking Peseta Vaifou Tevaga to accompany him to Tuvalu last week, when he was supposed to appear in Court.
Peseta has pleaded not guilty to charges of forgery and fraud. They arose from a complaint filed by senior H.R.P.P member and former Speaker of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa and two other business associates.
The complainants claim Peseta had forged the signature of Mr. Schwalger in order to transfer shares from his son to his name.
Last Friday when the matter was called for final submissions, Peseta was absent. He was in Tuvalu instead to accompany Prime Minister Tuilaepa to the celebration of that country’s flag day.
Peseta’s absence did not sit well with Justice Mata Tuatagaloa.
“The defendant should have never left the country without an application before the Court,” said Justice Tuatagaloa. “It doesn’t make him look good. He is a politician, this is the judiciary, this is the justice (system) and for something like that to have happened, what does that make us look like? That politicians’ are above the law?”
Yesterday, Tuilaepa maintained that the decision by Peseta to travel with him was his call. He insisted that he only gives instructions but it is up to the person to accept or deny.
Tuilaepa added that Peseta being his Associate Minister, it was an important trip.
“Who knows he might be the Prime Minister one day but at least he will understand what my work entails. That is the whole reason why there are trips where I take a Minister in case one day, I slip on a fruit skin but at least there are people who understand what I used to do.”
Asked if he knew about the case, Tuilaepa insisted Peseta accompanied him on his free will.
“It is none of my business because it’s not a matter concerning me, it’s a matter concerning him,” he said.
“If he was to be arrested for it – it would be good too because he has his own common sense because it’s not like I asked him to come and he protested. He should’ve told me ‘Tuilaepa I have something (to attend to).”
Tuilaepa added that the Associate Minister was putting his country first.
He also had a go at the Judiciary, saying the Judge should have thought about it deeply first before criticizing Peseta’s absence. He added that the issue was as “shallow” as some judges.
Peseta’s lawyer, Leulua’ali’i apologised to Justice Tuatagaloa for Peseta’s absence.
She explained that her client had advised her that he had received an urgent call from the Prime Minister to accompany him to Tuvalu.