Pursuit of justice? Or a witch hunt?

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 06 March 2019, 12:00AM

Put it this way. The pursuit of justice and truth by the Office of the Attorney General and the Police in different matters involving corruption, wrongdoing and where the law has been broken, especially in the public sector, is noble.

If anything, it’s a critical part of a country that firmly believes and follows the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance. We’d like to believe that Samoa is one of those countries.

Besides, the pursuit of justice and truth is precisely why the Office of the Attorney General and the Police exist.

With the help of other relevant authorities in the Government such as the Audit Office and others, they exist to provide checks and balances to ensure all public servants follow rules and obey the law.

When they do that, members of the public they exist to serve are more likely to benefit from the work they do, which is what it is all about.

Now why are we talking about the A.G.’s Office and the Police’s pursuit of truth and justice today? The answer lies with a story, which has raised a lot of eyebrows – and continues to do so – which surfaced last week. 

Titled “Police to investigate former election boss,” the story revealed that the Police had launched an investigation into the conduct of former Electoral Commissioner, Papali’i Malietau Malietoa. 

For the uninitiated, Papali’i’s services as the Electoral Commissioner were terminated back in 2015 following an investigation by the Public Service Commission into allegations levelled against him at the time.

After the first story surfaced, the very next day, Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, confirmed the investigation.

Asked about the timing of the investigation given that Papali’i was let go in 2015, Lemalu said the investigation has merits.

“All P.S.C. files referred to us and that are with our office are being given a full review as part of an updating of our files,” he explained, adding that there is P.S.C. evidence, which calls for the matter to be referred to the Police.

 “Where the evidence supports it, referrals will be made to the Police for their views and recommendations.”

Fair enough. Obviously the investigation against Papali’i Malietau falls under that category.

Now where the investigation is at and what is likely to happen next could not be ascertained since the Commissioner of Police, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, has yet to respond to questions from the Samoa Observer. It would be very interesting to see what they would do and whether they would press charges against the former C.E.O.

When the Samoa Observer contacted Papali’i for a comment, he said he was shocked. “I was not informed of an investigation and only heard it first from you. Natural justice dictates that I be informed of an investigation being undertaken and the scope of that investigation,” said Papali’i, adding that the timing is “unusual.” 

“It was 2015 I was terminated but I will defend myself via the lawful process. I would not be surprised given my vocal opposition against the dam being built in Alaoa.”

Well Papali’i’s reaction and suspicion is understandable but let’s say for conversation’s sake that this has nothing to do with his vocal objection to the Alaoa dam. 

Let’s just say that this is part of the Attorney General’s Office and the Police pursuit for justice. Why Papali’i Malietau? Of many cases we’ve seen over the years involving corruption and wrongdoing in the public service, why this particular case? 

We’re even more interested on why this matter is suddenly resurrected nearly four years after the former public servant had been sacked? 

Again, let’s say that the decision for the Police to follow up the P.S.C. investigation against Papali’i is the new benchmark, are they going to do the same for every other case since 2015? 

Are they going to get the Police to investigate countless other claims of corruption, mismanagement, abuse of public funds in all other parts of the Government?

Even more interesting, what about politicians and certain former Cabinet Ministers implicated in cases of corruption and collusion that were clearly identified and confirmed by the Audit Office and the Officers of Parliament Committee. Will the Police investigate them too? 

The point is that the pursuit for truth and justice is a noble gesture but it needs to be consistent and fair. If they are going to target the former Electoral Commissioner, for the sake of transparency and accountability, they should do the same for everyone else. 

What do you think? 

Have a fabulous Thursday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 06 March 2019, 12:00AM

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