M.P. calls on Prisons Minister to step down

By Joyetter Luamanu ,

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Minister of Prisons, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt and Olo Fiti Vaai.

Minister of Prisons, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt and Olo Fiti Vaai.

Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai, has called on the Minister of Prisons, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, to step down. 

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Olo said if he cannot fix the problems at the Prisons, then he should resign and let someone else get the job done.

Olo said he is baffled as to why no one from the Samoa Prisons and Correction Services has been charged for the “unlawful release” of notorious criminal Tagaloasa Filipaina during the holidays.

“Who is above the law and who isn’t?” he asked. “Why is that no one from the Samoa Prisons and Correction Services has been held accountable for the unlawful release of inmates?

“The law has been broken, yet nothing has been done about it.”

Olo said this is the “tragedy” of Samoa today. 

“Everyday in the Supreme and District Court, there are cases of people standing before Court for violation of the laws, some cases are very minor. So what is the difference in this case?” he asked.

“The law has been broken and yet no one has been held accountable.”

Olo has called on Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff and Police Commissioner, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, to intervene.

“It is sad when you know that when Government officials break the law, nothing is done about it, yet when the common people when they are in violation of the law they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. What does this say about our judiciary system?” 

That’s when Olo called on the Minister of Prisons, Tialavea, to step down from Office. He reminded that the buck stops with the Minister.

“The unlawful action by his Office should be dealt with immediately... it’s puzzling to see how our justice system is not adhered to when it comes to certain individuals,” he said. 

“Tiavalea defended the release of Filipaina last month, publicly as indicated in your newspaper, so my question is why has the A.G. and the Police not charged anyone for breaking the law? 

“There is inconsistency and favouritism when it comes to government officials. The government needs to walk the talk but not just pick and chose who the law applies to and who the law does not apply to.”

Attempts to get a comment from Minister Tialavea have not been successful.

Last month, the Minister defended the decision to release Tagaloasa to attend his matai title bestowal ceremony.

The release came at a time when members of the public were outraged over a prison break involving four other prisoners, which resulted in a woman and her children attacked at Ululoloa.  One of the prisoners remains at large. 

When concerns from members of the public about the Tagaloasa decision were put to the Minister, he downplayed them, saying 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 re-offending.”  

The Samoa Observer put it to Tialavea that the Prison’s new Act, signed into law in 2016, indicates that those who are convicted of murder, manslaughter, sexual connection, rape, incest, burglary and robbery are not eligible for special release, holiday release and weekend release.  

But Tialavea was adamant the prisoner in question posed no risk to the community. 

“The release depends on the condition of the prisoner, good behavior and low risk (of reoffending),” he said.  “We only release the prisoners with special conditions, meaning they are at low risk of reoffending.  

The release of prisoners into the community has been a controversial and sensitive issue in Samoa for years. Last year, Supreme Court Justice Lei’ataualesa Darryl Clarke openly criticized S.P.C.S. over the “unlawful release” of inmates. 

Justice Lei’ataualesa pointed out that as per regulation; murder convictions are not eligible for weekend parole.  

“This defendant was released in contrary to the regulations of 2016 which notes that he’s not supposed to be eligible for weekend parole.  

“The release of this prisoner is unlawful therefore non-compliance with what is allowed by the regulation.” 

Since his release, Tagaloasa and a relative have been accused of masterminding a mass prison escape plot, which was foiled by the Police.

Emails to Lemalu and the Police Commissioner have not been answered as of press time.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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