Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s gift from American Samoa

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Of the six petitions filed in the Supreme Court alleging corrupt practices leading up to the general elections in March, not one of them proceeded to a court hearing.

They were summarily withdrawn just before they were to be heard in a court of law, and the general feeling then was that it seemed the course of justice had once again been derailed.

Now the question is: By whom?

Answer: By the Samoan culture and traditions collectively known as the Fa’asamoa, and somehow Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was openly involved. 

The word then was that Tuilaepa had actually encouraged certain petitioners to withdraw their claims, telling them “there is always another day”, and naturally then the general feeling was that of confusion, shocking disbelief and even outrage

Asked if he had not interfered with the course of justice when he said what he did, Tuilaepa said: “No.

 “I did not interfere with these matters,” he told the Sunday Samoan. “Remember, our culture is a very important factor. Every action I make is because of our fa’asamoa culture and traditions.”

Well, he’s an astute politician allright, our dear prime minister. Even when he’s got himself entangled in the fray he’ll always find a way through which he can weasel himself out.  

The point is that having said he’d not interfered with the course of justice when he’d urged certain petitioners to withdraw their claims, and yet he’s revealed that every action he’s made he’s been dictated to by the Samoan culture and traditions, that revelation of his is also his admission that he had, indeed, interfered.

That was also when he revealed that he’d tried to contact his former Associate Minister, Lafaitele Patrick Leiataualesa, to discuss his petition accusing the newly elected woman M.P. for Alataua West, Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuu’au, of bribery and treating. 

Tuileapa said he could not find Lafaitele, but then later he found out that Lafaitele had, indeed, gone ahead and withdrew his petition. As it turned out though, Lafaitele’s petition was withdrawn “under intense pressure” from his constituents, and yes, with the endorsement of Prime Minister Tuilaepa.

And then there was the petition alleging corruption against the election of the senior MP, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, which, like others before it, was also quietly withdrawn.

This time though, as if an obstacle that had been giving Tuilaepa his most excruciating worry was now finally out of the way, he promptly appointed Leaupepe to the top post of his administration, that of Speaker of Parliament.

To be sure, it is clearly a token of appreciation for Leaupepe’s long service to his country through the contributions his business empire, has been making to the government over the years he’s been spending in Parliament. 

And yet it appeared that having done what he did Tuilaepa, all of a sudden, found himself haunted by the idea that he had made a plunder out there somewhere, which was when he declared: “It’s difficult because Samoa is not like other countries – it has its own culture.” 

He went on: “We can’t stop our cultural norms but the purpose of the legislation is to prevent these (electoral matters). We can’t stop the culture but it doesn’t mean that the law is not important … its main purpose is to prevent (unlawful) conduct during an election.”

Now we know. 

He is torn between his respect of justice and his love of sweet power that he knows will keep him where he is for as long as it takes, and now his confusion has become the festering wound that would not give his conscience peace.

That’s what we think anyway. He’s hurting inside because now he knows that he shouldn’t have ever interfered with those election petitions the way he did; instead, he should have stayed aloof minding his own business and let the Judiciary do what it’s meant to do, which is weaning out bribery and treating during general elections so that one day everyone would be living happily in corrupt free Samoa.

And yet it appears that the man’s overworked mind is rebelling and now he’s accusing everyone as he’s saying: “Any Samoan who is a true Samoan understands that, but if you’re not a real Samoan then you would feel upset.” 

Hogwash. 

So what’s the point in having a Parliament if the laws it’d made for everyone to follow and obey, are ignored by those who’d made them when it suit their warped purposes? 

Which follows that perhaps Prime Minister Tuilaepa should - the sooner the better - make an effort to combine his infatuation with his beloved fa’asamoa with the things called justice, integrity and honesty.

He should do this starting from the public service he’s been lording over with such carefree abandon over the years, otherwise his failure to do so could well lead to the curse called corruption hacking away surely and inevitably at his beloved Samoa all the way down to its knees, in a wave of poverty-triggered violence he’d have never seen before.  

Today we’re seeing the ugly signs staring at us in the face. 

They are in the pictures we see of innocent people being maimed and killed in their homes at night for no reason at all other than that they are there, and it is up to Tuilaepa and his government to put a stop to this madness otherwise it may well become a permanent illness causing unstoppable suffering everywhere. 

And then there is the legal matter brewing here and in American Samoa involving Samoa’s newly appointed Minister of Justice, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u.

On 8 May 2008, the Attorney General of the government of American Samoa, Fepulea’i Authur Ripley, filed a claim in the District Court of American Samoa naming Katopau Ainu’u, as the defendant in a criminal complaint. 

Katopau was accused of having committed two crimes, one of Embezzlement and the other of Criminal Fraud.

On the charge of Embezzlement, court documents showed that “on 3 November 2006, the Defendant knowingly misappropriated funds which had been entrusted to him in violation of ASCA 46.4104, a class C felony punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years, a fine of up to double the amount gained by the crime, or both.” 

On the charge of Criminal Fraud, court documents showed that “on 3 November 2006, the Defendant knowingly and willfully obtained money by use of a scheme to defraud by false pretenses.

 To wit: Defendant agreed to represent the victims(s) as an attorney, in a matai case; on that day, Defendant took payment from victim(s) as payment to represent victim(s) in a count case, while at the same time knowing that the Defendant was moving off-shore …”

Now ten years later, in March 2016, Samoa held its general elections and the defendant, Katopau Ainu’u, who was now holding the matai title of Fa’aolesa, ran for Parliament and he was elected.

Later, when Prime Minister Tuilapea chose his cabinet, he named Fa’aolesa the Minister of Justice, and shortly afterwards the ghosts of the past, having stirred into life, emerged to give both Fa’aolesa and Tuilaepa a hard time.

 Asked for a comment on the reports, Tuilaepa said he was “shocked” by them. “I have spoken with the Minister (concerned) who is (also) shocked (by them).” 

Tuilaepa revealed that Fa’aolesa “has contacted his lawyer in American Samoa who is also shocked about it, and (from what he’s been told) the matter had been resolved a long time ago but it has been dug up again.”

Shocked? 

What is the meaning of the word “shock” these two are talking about here? Never mind. But please don’t ask me to try and explain anything.  

All I can say is that when this newspaper asked Fa’aolesa for a comment, he said he was unaware about the warrant; he then asked for a copy so that he could look at it before he could comment. 

Copies of the “warrant” were sent to him but by press time that night he had not responded. 

Over there in American Samoa at the time, the current Attorney General, Talauega Eleasalo Ale, said his office was conducting an investigation into the matter.

“This is something that happened before I came into office,” he said. “(We) are definitely looking into it.” 

He also said all he knew was that “the matter is still valid and apparently it’s still in the books of the Court, and therefore it is still outstanding.

 “It’s a matter that’s up to the law enforcement and the Police to enforce if the person is in our jurisdiction. 

“(As for) the background and reasons for the warrant, those facts are still out there. I don’t know what happened.”

He explained: “The warrant is valid and if he is in American Samoan jurisdiction he can be arrested by the Police in pursuant to the Court’s warrant.”

Here in Samoa on the other hand, it appears that the embattled Minister of Justice, Courts and Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u, is a worried man.

He is apparently seeking to quash the outstanding warrant of arrest made against him in American Samoa with the aid of his American Samoan lawyer, he revealed in a telephone interview.

“My lawyer will make a motion to quash the warrant,” he said. “The delay is because they are trying to find the affidavit to support the warrant. 

“There was nothing at the Attorney General’s office and they are also looking for a copy from the Court.”

Asked if he was going to American Samoa when the matter would be heard in Court, Fa’aolesa said no. 

“It’s being done by my lawyer,” he said.

 “Once I get the results I’ll call you for my official response. In the meantime, I cannot say anything more that might compromise my lawyer’s work.”

To date, Fa’aolesa has not called. 

Still, bear in mind that American Samoa is a part of the United States of America, and that way the fa’asamoa cannot possibly be used there – as it’s being used here – to derail the course of justice for whatever reason at all.

So let’s be warned. Tuilaepa’s gift from American Samoa may well become his undoing yet.  So let’s wait and see. 

In the meantime, you may want to read the story  “Justice is served,” says Governor Cuomo of New York, then tell the rest what you think.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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