Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has urged senior public servants – including Cabinet Ministers – to exercise common sense in sensitive matters.
Tuilaepa made the point in response to questions from the Samoa Observer about tension between the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u and the President of the Land and Titles Court, Fepulea’i Attila Ropati.
“It’s crystal clear that a Minister should not interfere with the work of the Court,” Tuilaepa said.
“The Court’s decision should also not be based on what the Minister wants. (The Court shouldn’t) consider what the Minister thinks over a decision in a case that he is involved with.”
On Sunday, the tension emerged in a letter obtained by the Sunday Samoan where President Fepulea’i makes it succinctly clear to Minister Faaolesa that he cannot tell him what to do.
The letter was copied to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the Chief Justice His Honour Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu, Judge Vaepule Vaemoa Vaai and the Court Registrar.
The Minister strongly rejected suggestions he was telling the President what to do.
“I wrote to him as a chief in my family and as a private citizen,” Fa’aolesa said.
According to Tuilaepa, this is the problem with Samoa.
“Some families do not have enough family members to take the family disputes to the Court,” he said.
“The only option is the Minister, who has been the one leading family disputes to the Court. Common sense should be utilized in such cases.
“If there is anyone else who can lead the family petition to the Court, let that person do it.
“However if the Minister sees that person is unable to lead their family’s petition, only a stupid Minister would sit idle while their family petition is being dragged all over the place.”
From what he has seen about the dispute between Minister Faaolesa and President Fepulea’i, Tuilaepa said it is clear the Minister had written to him as a private citizen.
“I believe the President understands that the matter was addressed to him by a Samoan Chief,” said Tuilaepa.
“The President fully understands the oath he took. It is clear that his decisions will not be influenced by a Minister, it’s quite clear.”
Asked if this was one of the reasons why he ordered an Inquiry into the work of the Land and Titles Court, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said:
“Yes, that is why I am saying the President fully understands the oath he took.
“Under his oath he has no families when he is in Court as President of the Lands and Titles.”
Asked if guidelines should be drawn to prevent this from happening again, Prime Minister Tuilaepa insisted: “This is where common sense comes in play.”