Convicts, law and silly excuses

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The Minister of Prisons and Corrections Services, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt’s attempt to defend the indefensible on the front page of yesterday’s Samoa Observer is pathetic at best.

At worst, it is typical of what’s happening in this country today where leaders and senior public officials try to sugarcoat wrongdoing and butter up mistakes so that everyone can pretend that all is well when clearly it is not.

Folks, anywhere else in the world, heads would be rolling. There would be an outcry of some sort with members of the public calling for blood.

And yet here in Samoa, we’ve become so accustomed to these ridiculous excuses that we’ve just taken it on the chin and accepted them as normal. 

It’s just another day in paradise, right?  Pathetic, absolutely pathetic ladies and gentlemen!

Now the issue in question involves a convicted murderer. He is none other than well-known criminal, Tagaloasa Filipaina. 

During the Festive Season, the Samoa Prisons and Corrections Services (S.P.C.S.) apparently approved his release so he could attend a ceremony where he was bestowed a chiefly title.

Don’t us get us wrong, everyone deserves a second chance, even criminals.  

But the idea that prisoners can be granted special favours is disturbing. 

What’s the point of locking them up then? 

Why don’t we just forget about all those laws and let the prisoners come out for breakfast, lunch and dinner? 

Why don’t we invite them too to all cocktails and special openings and closings attended by who is who of Samoa?

We’ve got to be very careful about the messages we are sending out not just to the public but also the prisoners themselves, especially from a Prison that can barely contain convicts who keep running away at will.

Now when concerns from members of the public about the Tagaloasa decision were put to the Minister, he insisted that the prisoner had shown enough proof that he has changed his ways.

 “Filipaina is a low risk prisoner,” he said. “We believe he has very minimal chances of reoffending. The release depends on the condition of the prisoner, good behavior and low risk (of reoffending).”

Fine then. 

But here is a little snag. 

According to the Prisons New Act, signed into law in 2016, it says that people convicted of murder, manslaughter, sexual connection, rape, incest, burglary and robbery are not eligible for special release, holiday release and weekend release.

Pressed about what the law says, the Minister said there is a clause under the Prisoner’s Act, which gives the S.P.C.S. the authority to release a prisoner. 

 “Go and read the Act,” he said. 

Are you serious? 

Why don’t you read your own Act?

 “We only release the prisoners with special conditions, meaning they are at low risk of reoffending,” he insisted. 

“For Filipaina, he has been before the Parole Board five times already and he will appear again next month. He is a low risk prisoner.”

Let me tell you something Mr. Minister, members of the public are tired of being hurt by prisoners who are granted special permission only to come out and re-offend. 

Try telling this rubbish to the innocent woman who was attacked at Ululoloa just before Christmas when four prisoners – including one who remains at large – escaped from Tafaigata? 

Try justifying this decision to the family of people hurt by these criminals?

Try explaining yourself to many families whose homes have been broken into, robbed and whose young girls end up being raped while these convicts are outside of prison? 

Low risk, high risk or whatever risk, prisoners belong behind bars until they’ve done the time for the crime. It is that simple. 

Keep in mind that we’ve still got that silly thing called the law. It is what everybody should be following. No one is above the law.

The irony of it all is that the law to keep people like murderers behind bars was created by Parliament. 

Which means Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament then should lead by example in making sure these laws are respected and obeyed.

But if prisoners are granted special exemptions to do whatever they like, then what’s the point? Why do lawyers and Judges of the Court waste their time sending convicts to jail? 

What’s the use of a Judiciary system? Even worse, why waste money having a Parliament where laws are created?

We might as well just let the criminals run wild and free and let chaos reign. 

What do you think?

© Samoa Observer 2016

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