Interesting times in paradise

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

These are interesting times in paradise – in as far as the relationship between law enforcement agencies goes. 

Judging from the front page of your newspaper on Wednesday 17 August 2016, one can be easily forgiven for asking what on earth is going on in peaceful Samoa. More to the point, is there a war between our law enforcement agencies we were not aware about until now?

First there was the story titled “Director of Prosecutions arrested and charged.” It detailed the very public arrest of the Director of the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O), Mauga Precious Chang, who was escorted from her Office at the Tofilau Eti Alesana Building by Police officers – including members of the Tactical Operation Squad (T.O.S.). 

Now they say a picture is worth a thousand words and seeing images of members of the T.O.S. and multiple police officers present to arrest a woman who posed no physical danger to anyone was certainly chilling. One has to ask whether that was necessary at all? What has Samoa come to?

In any case, the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Lincoln Keil, confirmed the charges against Mauga. 

 “Police can confirm that they have charged the Director of the National Prosecution Office, Ms Mauga Precious Chang with negligent driving causing injury and dangerous driving,” he said in a statement. 

“The decision to charge is the result of a police investigation where the file was then reviewed by an independent prosecutor. 

“Police informed the Director in May shortly after the incident involving three damaged vehicles, that an investigation had commenced and charges were possible. 

“It was further confirmed to her a few weeks ago that charges were now likely.

“However the matter was then referred for an independent review of the evidence, which is now complete.”

The Police Commissioner’s statement added that the decision to charge Mauga followed an independent legal opinion sought by the Attorney General’s Office.

 “The independent prosecutor, Auckland based Barrister, Satiu Simativa Perese, was engaged on advice of the Attorney General to ensure independence, and he will work directly with Police,” the statement said.

Fair enough then. It will be interesting to follow the proceedings to see where this ends up. 

But it gets interesting of course. 

On the very same day, we also learned that Commissioner Fuiava himself had been charged. In his case, he is facing charges in relation to the alleged wrongful arrest of member of the public, Suitupe Misa, at the Fugalei market last year.

From what we’ve been told, the Commissioner is due to appear in the Supreme Court on 29 August to answer to charges including unlawful detention, perjury, providing false statements and disorderly conduct.

The Samoa Observer was later told that the Police Commissioner, who has just returned from his holiday, was only informed about the charges on Tuesday.

Later, Police Media Officer, Maotaoalii Kaioneta Kitiona, said the Commissioner’s case was handled by the National Prosecution Office and it was them who decided to file the charges.

 In the midst of all this kerfuffle of course is the Office of the Ombudsman. Earlier this year, Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma blasted the Police in relation to Mr. Misa’s arrest. 

For the uninitiated, Mr. Misa was arrested at gunpoint by a contingent of armed plain clothed officers in front of a shocked and distressed Fugalei marketplace. It transpired that Mr. Misa had “committed no crime” and the arrest was “carried out based on insubstantial and second-hand evidence.”

Mr. Misa then lodged a complaint against the Police, which was investigated by the Ombudsman’s Office. The findings of the investigation raised serious questions about the actions of the Police and the Commissioner.

“The Commissioner of Police failed to meet basic investigation principles and placed undue consideration on second hand evidence, leading directly to the wrongful and unlawful arrest of Suitupe,” the report’s findings reads. 

“The Commissioner’s decision to arm and allow the use of firearms by his officers contravened the Use of Force policy, was irresponsible, and could negatively impact the overall safety and security within Samoa.

“The Commissioner failed to take appropriate steps to identify the actions of his officers as being part of a police operation, leading to widespread distress and in one case serious health issues.”

There is a lot more to this case but we will stop here. 

Suffice to say these are very interesting times in paradise. We will follow these developments very closely. You have to wonder though what is the man who is lording over all these agencies thinking. 

What’s going on in his head? Is there method in thy madness or is he starting to lose control of these people?

Stay tuned!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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