Is Prime Minister Tuilaepa out to make a laughingstock of the Judiciary?

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

It’s conceivable that 30 September 2016, is not a date that the Justice of the Supreme Court, Mata Tuatagaloa, is likely to find that easy to forget. 

Since it was on that day that she told the Court:

“The defendant should have never left the country without an application before the Court. 

“It does not 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?”

She’s got a valid point there.

In any case, the defendant in this case is the Associate Minister, attached to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s Office, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga.

Accused of forgery and fraud, his trial has been going on for sometime, and now that the final day for submissions was 30 September 2016, Peseta was expected to be in court and yet when the court convened, he was nowhere to be seen. 

So where was he?

At the time he was in Tuvalu, thousands of miles way, and then amazingly enough, he was in the company of Prime Minister, Tuilaepa.

And what were they doing in Tuvalu?

They were the distinguished guests of the Tuvalu government on their Flag Day Celebrations, so that it was quite obvious they were having a wonderful, memorable time there. 

Anyway, it was when they returned home that sparks started flying.  They did when Tuilaepa held his first press conference since their return.

Asked for a comment on why the Associate Minister, Peseta, had been allowed to accompany him to Tuvalu when Tevaga knew well, that he was supposed to appear in court around that time, Tuilaepa was abrasive, scathing. 

He said: “I gave the instructions to come as he is the Associate Minister of my Office. 

 “Ministers don’t tell me that they will be at this certain place at 7 o’clock and will be here and there at 8 and 10 o’clock. 

“I only give instructions to come with me but I do not own their common sense.”

Now is that so? 

But then what common sense is he talking about now? 

Does a cabinet minister who has been charged with forgery and fraud care any more about what the words common sense mean?  

Indeed, does he care any more about the safe-keeping of the public’s properties that are being entrusted to his management and control, now that he is being charged with forgery and fraud?

At his press conference though, Tuilaepa told reporters he had washed his hands clean of the claims that he disrespected the judiciary, when he invited the Associate Minister who is accused of fraud and forgery, to travel with him in the middle of his Court hearing. 

So how clean are his hands now, if he would not mind us asking him now? Squeaky clean, or just clean?

Anyway, that was when Tuilaepa told reporters he gave the instructions to the Minister to come with me but I do not own their common sense.

Incidentally, the Minister in question, Peseta, had pleaded not guilty to charges of forgery and fraud. They arose from a complaint filed by the senior H.R.P.P member and former Speaker of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa, and two business associates.

The two associates are Martin Schlwalger, a businessman, and Apulu Lance Polu, the owner and editor of one of Samoa’s prominent media companies, the Talamua Media.

Their complaint is a bit unusual; they are claiming that Peseta had forged the signature of Mr. Schwalger, in order to transfer shares from his son to his name. 

Whose name, it is not spelt out.

Still, Tuilaepa insisted that when he invited Peseta to travel with him to Tuvalu, it was on the understanding that Peseta would exercise his freedom, to either accept or deny.

“It was his call,” Tuilaepa told reporters.

Besides, Tuilaepa reckoned that since Peseta was his Associate Minister, he felt that the trip to Tuvalu would be an important one for him. 

“Who knows,” Tuilaepa said, “he might be Prime Minister one day, but at least he will understand what my work entails. 

“That is the whole reason there are these 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.”

He does not need to worry though. Everyone knows. 

They all know that without him, corruption in this country might have been trimmed right down to the bare bones, a long time ago.

Oh yes, they know. 

Still, that was when he zeroed in on the judiciary and attacked Justice Mata Tuatagaloa, saying she should have thought deeply first about what he was trying to do, before criticizing Peseta for being absent from court that day.

And then as if that was not harsh punishment enough, he dumped salt on the wound by adding that the issue was just as shallow as some judges.

So what is he talking about now?

What does he mean by that seemingly well-camouflaged diatribe, as if he is actually accusing Justice Tuatagaloa of being shallow? 

The mind cringes!

What is going on here anyway?

Is it possible that our prime minister has a sizeable vocabulary of colorful epithets for all occasions stashed away in his head, so that the moment the right one is needed, all he has to do is click it into life, and then he sits back and listen as it’s splurging all over the place for everyone to hear. 

Indeed, does a minister who is accused of forgery and fraud have the time and energy to think deeply about putting his country first, when all the worries are now zooming agitatedly around inside his head?

Well, the writer should know. 

He has been attacked by our prime minister - not once but a number of times – as an “idiot and a fool” for telling the truth, and yet he is still here. 

In fact, he’s slyly admitting – if that’s all right with you anyway - that he’s become quite used to being the target of our prime minister’s venomous wrath, so that he truly believes he would be quite lost without it.

Incedentally, now that Prime Minister Tuilaepa, under his tutelage, has virtually destroyed the respect that once made the Samoan Parliament the envy of the democratic world, is it also his intention now to turn the judiciary into a hollow institution to be frowned upon by everyone, both near and far?

 Still, it’s been a fun week.  

So let’s wish all the children of Samoa a very meaningful White Sunday, and may the love of God inspire you, guide you, and be with you all the time.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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