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Taking the law into your own hands not an option

This week, the Court of Appeal ruled on a long-running matter that has attracted a lot of public attention since it first came to light over a year ago.The Court of Appeal overturned the May 2018 ruling of the District Court – which discharged the President of the Land and Titles Court (LTC), Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati without a conviction – and convicted and fined him $7000.The discharging without conviction of the LTC President raised eyebrows and led to questions being asked about the Judiciary and its ability to keep its own officers accountable and upholding the rule of law, especially after the respondent had already pleaded guilty to the charge.To put this issue in perspective, we will have to go back to the beginning. The matter concerned an incident on the night of December 15, 2017 at a Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (MJCA) Christmas party, where the defendant pleaded guilty to striking the complainant with two half empty bottles, and throwing a punch that the complainant managed to dodge. The complainant suffered a head injury from the ordeal, and had to be taken by his wife to the hospital and later a private doctor.The matter first went to the District Court on March 13, 2018 after the respondent was charged on February 3, 2018. Following procedural hearings in both the District and Supreme Courts, he entered a guilty plea in the Supreme Court on April 25, 2018 and the matter returned to the District Court for sentencing. Following two procedural hearings, the District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i on May 11, 2018 noted the factor of the complainant laughing at the respondent before the assault occurring, thus “provocation albeit of a low degree”, as well as expressed doubt at the seriousness of his injuries and suggested the complainant exaggerated.Subsequently, the District Court let off the respondent without conviction, together with other conditions including $1000 restitution to the victim.But the prosecution appealed the decision to the Supreme Court with the presiding Justice Leiataualesa Darryl Clarke finding that the District Court Judge erred in her analysis of the “laughing as provocation” issue, and there should have been a disputed facts hearing in the District Court, followed by a fresh decision on whether there should be a discharge. The Supreme Court then set aside the discharge without conviction ruling and remitted the matter back to the District Court. Only for the matter to be appealed, this time by the Attorney General, to the Court of Appeal. The Attorney General relied on three grounds: the appeal to the Supreme Court wasn’t against sentence, but acquittal; the Supreme Court erred to direct a disputed facts hearing as the “laughing as provocation” issue is insignificant to determine if there should be a discharge; and the Supreme Court should have entered a conviction based on the merits of the case.Early this week the Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the District Court and convicted Fepulea’i, on top of ordering him to pay a $7000 fine. The decision was handed down by a five-member bench comprising Justices Robert Lloyd Fisher, Rhys Harrison, Graham Ken Panckhurst, Vui Clarence Nelson and Keli Tuatagaloa. There is no doubt that the decision by the Court of Appeal is a major boost to the standing of the Judiciary. It has restored public trust and confidence in this arm of Government, and will go a long way in giving assurance to the people, that even the Court Judges and Justices are and can be held accountable for their actions.The Office of the Attorney General should also be commended. It has been relentless in pursuing this and other criminal matters in Court, to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done. Looking back in retrospect, the decision of the LTC President – to take matters into his own hands on the evening of December 15, 2017 that led to the various ensuing Court proceedings – is now a dent in his otherwise unblemished professional career. And if there is anything we can take away from this – it is about using the systems and processes that are established within the Government – to address concerns such as staff conduct and performance. Taking the law into your own hands should not be an option. And if we represent the people in positions of leadership in the Government and the Private Sector, then the onus is on us to lead and show the way by upholding the rule of law and being good citizens. Have a lovely Easter weekend Samoa and God bless. 

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Street Talk

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Public express mixed reaction to M.M.R. vaccination resumption

I have heard of the incident in Savai'i before and I have to apologize to the nurses for saying this but I will not trust my kids to be vaccinated anymore. I’d rather have them stay at home and I take care of them there, than have them take the risk of not knowing if the same thing would happen again or not. It’s not like I’m bad mouthing the nurses and their job or whatever, but I just do not intend to continue my son’s vaccination ever again.It’s good because what usually happens is that parents are always looking forward to having their children vaccinated and having that would protect them for a long period of time. But ever since the incident from Savai’i, I noticed that a lot of parents are starting to doubt the MMR vaccination. I am just want the people to know that we have to have our faith again in the jobs of the nurses. That was just a mistake that could be learnt and to never happen again because at the end of the day, it’s for the safety of our children.I’m about to give birth to my baby and it has been such a worry for me when I heard of the deaths last year, I was confused of whether to vaccinate my baby in the future or not but I guess it all depends on our faith. When the right time comes that I feel confident to vaccinate my baby then I will wait for that right time but for now I am putting my trust in God to show me what to do.I support the continuation of the MMR vaccination because we all know that it’s something that can protect our children from all the different diseases that are floating in the air. Two, we have to think about the safety our children in the future. What will happen to them if they don’t take vaccination? These are the things that we should consider when we think about our decisions. I know that ever since the incident, we have doubted the vaccine, but we are a Christian country and we have to put our faith in God to guide our nurses and ourselves as well.I have a one-year-old son and he has had only one MMR vaccination. Ever since the incident from Savai'i, I stopped taking him to the hospital, up to when I heard that the vaccination was terminated for a period. From then onward, I told myself that I will never take my children to for vaccination ever again – even if it opens again. But this morning seeing all these mothers and their children sort of changed my mood so to be honest, I am putting my faith in God to guide me in doing what I am supposed to do for my children.The right thing to do is to have our own children protected at home by ourselves. That is the right thing to do because it has already taken lives of those innocent babies who are our blessings from above. So what I suggest we should do is to have them checked at the hospital if they’re sick and maybe take medications for them for cure instead of vaccinations. I am willing to do whatever it takes to safeguard my kids at home rather than taking risks. My kids are my blessings from the heavenly Father and I can’t risk their lives.

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Letter to Editor

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U.S. Ambassador tries but no one is fooled

The photo in Wednesday’s Samoa Observer of the American Ambassador and his good lady with Imam Laulu Mohammed Stanley is very touching. Such fake empathy and compassion! If Ambassador Brown is truly sympathetic about what happened to the Muslim community in Christchurch, why not do something real like telling his boss in the White House and his former employers at Fox News to stop demonizing the Muslims with lies and fake news? And while you’re at it by the way, do the same with the evangelical so-called Christians of America.Because when you have such power over how people think and behave, you can’t go on preaching hate against other peoples and then not expect your followers and admirers somewhere to act on it. Words have consequences, the more so when they come from leaders. And what good is wearing a hijab in Samoa other than to take people here for fools, and to copycat the incomparable Ms. Ardern? The big difference is that Ms. Ardern wore the signature Muslim women dress with panache, compassion and most importantly sincerity. The whole world saw that in her, and with the exception of you know where, applauded. She also backed it up immediately afterwards with concrete action.  So please don’t add insult to injury and desecrate the hijab.  Your current employer in the White House and former employer at Fake News continue to empower killers like what’s his name in the Christchurch massacre. Wearing the hijab at this time is nothing but hypocrisy of the highest order and fools no one here. E le valea uma ValeGasa Lefa T. Vailima

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