A young mother who was held in custody with her two-month-old at Tafa’igata Prison after she failed to repay $1,147 she borrowed from another couple has been released.
This was confirmed by the Assistant Commissioner of Samoa Prisons and Correction Services, Ulugia Sauafea Aumua yesterday.
“The mother and her two months old baby have already been released,” Ulugia told the Sunday Samoan.
“We received a letter from the Registrar to discharge her on Thursday 4th of April.”
Ulugia said his understanding is that debt had been paid before she was released.
“That’s the reason why the Registrar had sent us a letter, To my knowledge the debt has already been paid in full hence why we released her,” said Ulugia.
“I’m not sure who paid the debt but all I know is that the debt has already been paid so she is back to her family at Letogo.”
Last month Ulugia confirmed that Tafi’au Kini, of Letogo had been held at Tafaigata on a Warrant of Committal. It was issued on 17 March 2017 and was signed by a Registrar of the Court.
Last week, the President of the Samoa Law Society, Su’a Hellene Wallwork, criticised the laws which allowed the woman and her baby to spend time in jail.
“This is a shameful part of our laws and legal process in Samoa which needs reviewing,” she was quoted as saying by Samoa Planet.
“This procedure is a contravention of Samoa’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (I.C.C.P.R).”
Su’a said the issue violates human rights.
“It’s a very draconian procedure, but still used all the time because it is an effective method of extracting money.”
“Once a person is locked up, then their aiga runs around looking for money to pay their debt.”
“The anecdotal evidence I have on this issue is that it affects quite a few women. Usually, these women are mothers taking out small loans for White Sunday then again by Christmas time, and also when school starts for the year.
It is not difficult for the borrower to be in trouble with repayments shortly after this period.”
“At the very least an arrested judgement debtor should be taken before a Judge for a final decision to be made regarding imprisonment."
“As it is, a judgment debtor can end up in prison without ever having seen a Judge or the inside of a courtroom. Unfortunately, many debtors do not turn up to Court (for various reasons) when their cases are called so they are totally unaware of the procedure.”