P.M. says Minister has "authority" to "direct movement of Court files"

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is firm that the law gives the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration the “authority” to “direct the movement of Court files.”

This was his response to questions from the Samoa Observer on why the Government has not acted in relation to the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Faaolesa Katopau Ainu’u’s role in the removal of Court files from the Court to his office.

“In this situation, the law gives the Minister of Justice broad authority to direct the movement of files under the custody of the Registrar," Tuilaepa said.

He said this is "governed by the Judicature Ordinance 1961 Section 35 (2).”

The section in question reads: "The Registrar shall be responsible to the Minister of Justice for the administration and control of the Court offices and he shall keep or cause to be kept such records of the proceedings of the Court and matters pertaining thereto as the Minister of Justice may direct and shall perform such other duties in relation to the administration of the Court as the Chief Justice may require."

In 2016, Land and Titles Court files were removed from the Court and taken to Minister Fa’aolesa’s office. The files were delivered by Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration employee, Tualima Pio and the Secretary of former Chief Executive Officer, Papali’i to the Minister’s office in 2016.

Mr. Pio reported the matter to the Chief Justice before he told the Samoa Observer about it. Later, an investigation by the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) into the removal of the files – and other matters at the Ministry – was launched.

The investigation has led to the termination of the contract of the former Chief Executive Officer, Papali’i John Taimalelagi, who faced other P.S.C. charges.

Asked why the investigation was not extended to the Minister, Tuilaepa said P.S.C's jurisdiction is not extended to Cabinet Ministers.

“That is the law that you as a reporter should have done your research, prior to wasting my valuable time to respond to your inciting kindergarten and school yard tactics,” Tuilaepa said.

“Judgment day for all Cabinet Ministers and MP’s will be on Election Day where the voters will serve as jurors and judges.”

The Prime Minister, who is also the Chairman for the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.), added that the inquiry by the P.S.C. into the former C.E.O. covered the removal of files.  

“Also, the issue on removing the files was addressed by the P.S.C. in its inquiries on the former C.E.O. of Justice.

“That information by the way was already published by your newspaper from your recent interview with the Minister of Justice.

“Nonetheless, the upside of your inquiries is that, it is providing the opportunity to once more reaffirm the transparent processes undertaken by government and it further vindicates Government.”

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