Ghost writers! O le Palemia! And yes, Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s gift from American Samoa!
About a month ago, on 18 December 2017 that was, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi shocked everyone when he did something that was quite inconceivable at the time, so that it seemed pretty clear that no one in his right mind would have known what to do in response.
He told Parliament that his government was in the process of re-introducing the heinous Law of Criminal Libel, which had been abolished back in 2013, so that he could use it to hound down those pestering “ghost writers” who’ve been giving him so much headache over recent times, especially the one who’s been calling himself O.L.P. or “Ole Palemia”.
As it turned out though, Parliament readily concurred and once again the Law of Criminal Libel had found itself becoming a statute among the law books of Samoa.
The question then is: Has Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi achieved what he’d aimed for when he re-introduced the Law of Criminal Libel, which was to put behind bars those silly ghost writers who have apparently been giving him a hard time, especially the joker who’s been teasing him by calling himself “Ole Palemia?”
We don’t know.
All we know is that when the bill was subjected to a vote in Parliament, it passed its first, second and third reading, within less than an hour.
Now that, like it or not, was how totally supportive of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Parliament was.
Indeed, not only had Tuilaepa been instrumental in bringing back the Law of Criminal Libel, as a part of a government-driven effort to clamp down on “ghost writers” such as “Ole Palemia” and others, he also played a major role in the use of so-called fake social media pages to attack members of the public.
He said in a statement: “The intention is not only to protect the privacy of the individuals and the general public from unsubstantiated, vicious and inciting allegations posted by ghost writers on the social media, but to safeguard and ensure that peace and harmony in the country remains intact.”
The statement quoted Prime Minister Tuilaepa as having said: “Since the Criminal Libel law was abolished (from the Crimes Act of 2013), some have abused the freedom to express their views publicly and in particular, the defamatory allegations posted on social media.”
He also said: “Some of these postings could lead to violent confrontation which may eventually cause misery to families, and the government will not stand by any longer.”
He went on to advise the public: “Subject to approval by Parliament, the new act will ensure that the ghost writers will be brought to justice to answer to their writings.”
“And they could be liable to be prosecuted with offences that will include imprisonment.”
Tuilaepa also explained: “The H.R.P.P. caucus is in full support. There are 4,500 hackers in Samoa. Some are children and even lawyers are among the best hackers in the country.”
“As for the writers who’re hiding behind their anonymity by using their freedom of expression, to vent their vile and demeaning allegations on social media, they will no longer be tolerated. They should be warned now that their days of mischiefs are numbered.”
The hackers, added Tuilaepa, will be used by the government to track down the ghost writers, and he then explained: “It’s like using a thief to catch a thief.”
Smart! Brilliant observation!
Even Tuilaepa’s “gift from American Samoa”, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainuu - he is now the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration - chipped in when the bill was passed into law.
He said: “The law is not new.”
And he went on to explain: “This amendment is in relation to defamation. Currently there is a clause to have this case before the Court for a civil claim. The amendment today is to add on the criminal prosecution for defamation.”
Fa’aolesa also said: “People have asked as to why we need to reinstate the criminal libel law, when the matter can be dealt with through civil law.”
He explained: “In a civil claim, there is a need for lawyers to represent your case, but then most of our people cannot afford a lawyer; whereas in Criminal Libel, the matter can be prosecuted by the Police and you would not need a lawyer.”
He then talked about the history of the law, saying: “It was abolished back in 2013 based on legal opinions of some lawyers.”
“However, the government sees the need to reinstate this law following requests by members of the public, who want to pursue cases before the Court but then they cannot afford a legal counsel.”
Fa’aolesa said: “The law amends the Crimes Act 2013 with introduction of a new Part 9A for crimes against a person’s reputation.”
“This is according to the explanatory memorandum, which further says the offence being introduced under this Part is “False statement causing harm to a person’s reputation”.
Fa’aolesa went on: “The rationale for introducing the offence is to address harm done to a person’s reputation by another person who publishes false information about that person.”
“This is similar to defamatory libel, and although civil proceedings for defamation are available to the public, the reality is, not all Samoans have access to these proceedings since not all are able to afford legal services required for such proceedings.”
He also said: “It is therefore on that premise that this offence is introduced into the Crimes Act 2013, to allow any member of the public to have access to the criminal justice system, in dealing with the harm suffered due to false information being published.”
And now there’s Member of Parliament, Fonotoe Lauofo Pierre, who, having joined in the discussion, said he was fully supportive of Fa’aolesa’s views.
He then commended Fa’aolesa for reinstating the measure that will better serve members of public who are victims of defamation.
Said Fonotoe: “The passage of the amendment couldn’t come at a better time, given the advancement of technology nowadays.”
“This amendment criminalises those who publish untrue comments, and most especially nowadays, with the use of social media.”
He also said: “What comes to mind is the utilisation of cell phones via texts, where users send threatening and defaming remarks and this has escalated over the years.”
“That is why I want to thank the Minister.”
However, the question that has been baffling the mind all this time, is: How did the government plan to use the Law of Criminal Libel - which was abolished back in 2013 and later it was revived in December 2017 - to seek out those they claimed were ghost writers, and in particular the chap they called“Ole Palemia” who, when they are found they would be punished?
Still, how would such punishments, be carried out?
Well, perhaps Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Salele Malielegaoi, who is also known as “Ole Palemia” would be kind enough, to tell us all how this one would be done.