Tribunal asks P.M. to remove N.P.O. Director
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has been asked to remove the suspended Director of the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O.), Mauga Precious Chang.
The call comes from a Cabinet-ordered Tribunal tasked to investigate the conduct of Mauga and her associate, Muriel Lui.
Both have been suspended since last year.
The Tribunal sat at Tuana’imato last week for two days. It comprised of the Chairman, Sir Robert Grant Hammond, Tuiloma Neroni Slade and Alalatoa Rosella Viane-Papali’i.
Their report was presented to Prime Minister Tuilaepa yesterday, a source said.
A copy of the 15-page report obtained by the Samoa Observer highlights the Tribunal’s concerns about Mauga’s conduct.
“We are required to make a recommendation as to whether or not Ms. Chang as the Director of N.P.O. should be removed from office pursuant to s.11(6) (b) (ii) N.P.O. Act,” the report reads.
“The position of Ms. Chang and Ms. Lui must be considered separately because the concerns raised against them are not identical.”
According to the Tribunal, Mauga should be removed.
“Unfortunately, we are obliged to recommend that Ms. Chang should be removed from Office,” the Tribunal recommends.
“On the delegation point, she was badly in error despite the warning of senior public servants including the A.G. and the Prime Minister as Minister for the N.P.O. Act that she should separate herself entirely from the prosecution of herself.
“This matter required the application of wisdom and common sense but sadly, this was not reflected in the decisions she made.
“The obligations she was under were significant constitutional prescriptions.
“Yet when suspended she determinedly clung to the position she had taken up. This was all contrary to public service values.
“She ignored the conflict and impropriety that facing charges in her personal capacity, she still sought to appoint her own choice of prosecutor.
“This was easily the most significant concern to all who have had occasion to consider this case.
“This should not have been done by a Constitutional officer who must have the qualifications required of a member of the judiciary. We again emphasise, the D.P.P. office is a constitutional office with very heavy and significant responsibilities.”
But the Tribunal found that Ms. Lui was in a different position.
“We have found she had no involvement in the delegation by Ms. Chang of her own prosecution,” the report reads.
“We also found that the evidence, and the only concern against her relating to the investigation of the Police, is not clear and compelling.
She did try to take advice and the matter was discussed with some Ministers and officials.
“However, it is a fine line whether the N.P.O. work she carried out was a continuance or new work and the evidence before us, it is not possible to be definitive.
“It would be unjust in such a situation to order her removal.
“There is also a technical situation in that the removal section seems to apply only to a Director and not an Assistant Director. Accordingly, there is no adverse finding against Ms Lui as a result of this enquiry.
“We recommend that Ms Lui not be removed.”
Mauga was suspended by Cabinet last August following a Police investigation and review by an independent prosecutor of charges filed against her.
Her suspension was for an initial period of three months while her case underwent standard judicial process.
The traffic charges against her have since been dismissed but the decision is being appealed.
In her absence, Acting Director, Muriel Lui assumed the responsibilities and duties of the Director of the National Prosecution Office.
However, in October last year, Ms. Lui was also suspended by Cabinet.
“Cabinet has noted the continued refusal of the suspended Acting Director of N.P.O and suspended Director of N.P.O to properly perform powers and duties to uphold the rule of law and objectivity of the criminal justice system,” a statement from Cabinet said at the time.
“Cabinet acknowledges that the actions of Ms. Lui and Ms. Chang have created unnecessary conflicts between government departments while diminishing public confidence in law enforcement processes and the justice system in Samoa.
“Furthermore, the validity of the establishment of the National Prosecution Office will also be reviewed to ensure the statutory responsibilities and powers are treated with greater transparency, accountability and respect.”
“The Tribunal will be appointed on the grounds that Ms. Chang and Ms. Lui have not used the statutory powers given to them in an appropriate manner and they have breached Civil Service Values and Code of Conduct under the Public Service Act 2004, as applied to them under section 15 of the N.P.O Act 2015.”
As for the question about the future of the N.P.O, the Tribunal said that is an issue for Parliament to decide.
“We recognise that it is for the Parliament of Samoa to determine in the future who should carry on the important prosecutorial functions in Samoa,” the report reads.
“It is essential and confirmed by our own professional experience that the existence of a strong, independent prosecutorial service is fundamental for justice in Samoa.”