A soap made in Samoa

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 September 2016, 12:00AM

Here’s a thought. Two f words come to mind when one steps back to observe the legal wrangling about the handling of charges against the suspended Director of the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O). 

Fascinating and farcical.  

The truth is that the seriousness of the actual charges of negligent driving causing injury and dangerous driving against Mauga Precious Chang has taken a backseat to the arm wrestle for power, which has become so clear, it’s ridiculous.

None more obvious than the showdown at the District Court on Monday when some of the most powerful lawyers in Samoa – including a Samoan lawyer from New Zealand – showed up for a hearing that could easily make an episode of ‘The Practice.’ 

We’d like to think it’s all legal of course obviously because they are lawyers and they are supposed to know what they are doing. It’s just that from a layman’s perspective, it resembles a circus without the funny noses and the clowns.

It’s not surprising that poor Judge Vaepule Vaemoa Va’ai didn’t know what had taken over his Court.

In case you are not aware of what happened on Monday, let me quickly run you through it. When the charges against Mauga were called before Judge Vaepule, confusion arose as to which lawyer was the prosecutor.

Two senior lawyers were present. One was Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, who appeared on behalf of the N.P.O. The other was New Zealand-based lawyer, Satiu Simativa Perese, who claimed to have been there to represent the Police. 

Taulapapa insisted she was acting on behalf of the N.P.O. Satiu, however, disagreed saying the Director of the N.P.O. cannot appoint her own prosecutor.  In any case, the matter has now been referred to the Supreme Court which is due to make a decision next week.

In the meantime, Judge Vaepule obviously was not impressed.

 “I did not anticipate what’s now happening,” he said adding that he expected the lawyers to make pleas for their clients instead.

 “I do not see that this Court has to be necessarily involved in arguments as to which Act prevails over which Act,” he spelled out.

“That should be dealt with in the Supreme Court but if counsel sees that these particular arguments should proceed in this Court, it won’t happen this morning (Monday).” 

He then adjourned the matter until 23 September, 2016 for the Police to finalise charges and to give time for the Supreme Court on Monday to rule on who would stand to prosecute. Judge Vaepule added if at that stage the Supreme Court has still not ruled on who would prosecute; the District Court will make a decision based on common sense.

Well that’s a great idea, Judge Vaepule. Since this hearing involves so many laui’as in the legal profession, maybe, just maybe common sense is what’s needed. The simple fact is that someone has been accused of a crime and that’s what the attention should focus on.

Now here is why we say this particular hearing is fascinating. 

The personalities involved – except for Satiu (we stand corrected) – have all had connections to the Office of the Attorney General at one time or another. Taulapapa and Mauga’s lawyer, Aumua Ming Leung Wai, are both former Attorney Generals. Mauga herself has held the position of Acting Attorney General during the time of her lawyer Aumua’s term as Attorney General. 

Satiu on the other hand is in Samoa due to instructions from the current Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff. 

This is starting to look like the battle of the Attorney Generals. Fascinating.

But why then do we say it’s farcical?

Well with the personalities involved, it’s all so dramatic isn’t it? 

If we hadn’t been privy to the information we now know about charges and what led to it, we could be forgiven for thinking the case is a matter of life and death. 

But then there is probably method in thy madness.

Keep in mind that this is a case that has been dramatic from day one. It all started when uniformed Police officers and members of the Tactical Operation Squad (T.O.S.) turned up at the Tofilau Eti Alesana Building to arrest the N.P.O Director. The rest as you know is history. 

The latest twist and turns is just a continuation. 

Who needs those Filipino and Chinese soaps on T.V. anymore? We are watching one unfold before our very eyes. This episode is a made in Samoa for Samoa starring Tuilaepa’s “kids.” 

And it’s all free. 

So stay tuned! 

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 September 2016, 12:00AM

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