Clearing the air of uncertainty over L.T.A. traffic officers, and avoiding potential litigation

There will be some level of anxiety and discomfort amongst the 40 or so Land Transport Authority (LTA) traffic officers, who found themselves unattached after the Cabinet decided last month to remove traffic regulation enforcement powers from the Authority and return it to the Police.

No doubt, some of them would have read an article, which was published in the May 12, 2019 edition of the Samoa Observer. The article extensively quoted the Commissioner of Police, Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil.

"The people who will be coming in as police officers — you have to by law, you have to go through proper steps — you can’t just bring someone in and make them a policeman. 

"You have to go through the screening process, make sure that you don’t have any criminal history, work ethic is good, that you’re not a drunk, no one who does drugs and I’m not saying that they are but we have to screen everyone who comes in to the Samoa Police now," said the Police Commissioner.

We do not blame Fuiavaili'ili for putting his foot down on the Samoa Police Service (SPS) recruitment processes, he is the Police Commissioner and the citizens and the Government expect him to secure a safer Samoa by graduating policemen and women who tick all the boxes in terms of their training and upskilling. Having graduates who fall short of the benchmarks set by the Police Academy, would not look good for the S.P.S. top brass, and over the long-term impact negatively on their effectiveness as policemen and women to uphold the rule of law.

But we believe the case of the L.T.A. traffic officers should be looked at on its own merit. Here are a group of officers — who are still on salaries paid for by the Authority — but only until the end of this financial year. What happens after June this year is anyone’s guess.

In fact there should be special dispensation for the L.T.A. traffic officers, who through no fault of their own, now find themselves unattached and potentially without a job after June this year. The Government should consider a severance pay package for everyone of them, which they should receive end of next month. Those who wish to join the Police and agree to go through its rigorous recruitment process, which includes the Police Academy as outlined by the Police Commissioner, can apply to do so. Others can look for employment elsewhere.

But the bottom line is that the affected L.T.A. traffic officers should be compensated, and a severance pay package for each and everyone of them would be the right thing to do. Failure to go down that path could open up the L.T.A. and the Government to lawsuits filed by the affected traffic officers. 

Fuiavaili'ili indicated recently that there is already a transition plan in place, which would cater for the displaced L.T.A. traffic offers, but the Police are yet to hear from the Authority. 

"We're already doing transition plan, we already have that for these new employees that come back. But until L.T.A. releases their people, as of now, I still don’t have anyone from L.T.A. who is traffic over at the Samoa Police and we have requested those individuals, but no one has come yet.

"But we do have a plan, we’re just now waiting for them to come over and then we can go the smooth transition but also understanding that there are still laws that apply to the L.T.A. that needs to be changed as well," he said.

Early this month, Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang told this newspaper that the Cabinet directive cannot be effected until amendments are made to the Land Transport Authority Act 2007.

“I know the F.K. (Cabinet directive) was effective on Monday, (28 April, 2019). But we have to be fair to them, we must wait until the amendments are made to the L.T.A. Act 2007. 

"We don’t want to transfer them without due process, in case this fires back. We have to know whether the officers should be transferred over to police with the budget to pay salaries, which is what I am hoping for,” Papali'i said. 

The Minister appears to know the implications of the Cabinet’s decision. Therefore we hope the Government can move quickly to address this and clear the air of uncertainty surrounding the future of the 40 or so L.T.A. traffic officers.

Have a lovely Tuesday Samoa and God bless.

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