Let’s insist on the truth, transparency and justice

Let’s see. For the sake of transparency, accountability and justice, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Government cannot afford to palm off the request from the former Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Papali’i John Taimalelagi.

Ladies and gentlemen, we believe it is imperative for Prime Minister Tuilaepa to launch an official independent investigation into claims by the sacked Chief Executive Officer that he was unfairly treated in his termination.

Such an investigation should look into the conduct of everyone involved - from the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u, to the Public Service Commission itself.

Don’t get us wrong, by all accounts of what we’ve been told in relation to Papali’i, his conduct was unbecoming of someone in his position, especially for someone sitting at the helm of the Ministry of Justice.

But there is something very wrong when it seems that he has been made the scapegoat while there are people in there who should be dealt with, just as Papali’i has been. That’s what transparency, accountability and true justice is all about.

Let’s quickly recap the developments in this saga, which for some reason, refuses to go away. Not long after Cabinet terminated the services of Papali’i, the former Chief Executive Officer wrote to the Chairman of the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.), Aiono Mose Su’a. Prime Minister Tuilaepa, who is the Minister of P.S.C., was copied in the letter, where Papali’i urged the Government to reconsider the decision to terminate his contract.

“First and foremost, I had vehemently denied all the sexual harassment charges P.S.C. had a filed against me,” Papali’i wrote. “My denial of the charges was made clear to P.S.C.’s representative (Tim) and in my written response to the charges. However, I was forced to admit the charges as I was pressured to do so by the Hon. Minister of Justice and P.S.C. member, Auelua Samuelu Enari.

“I was told that I had to admit the charges to avoid further and lengthier investigations and disciplinary proceedings and that my penalty would only be a “warning”.

“Associate Minister So’oalo Mene was present at those meetings with the P.S.C’s representatives (Tim) at my office and the meeting with the Minister at his office and can vouch that I had admitted to the charges under duress.”

Folks, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that this sounds extremely alarming. This is a very serious allegation that deserves the Government’s full attention given the people who are involved.

Several attempts by this newspaper to get comments from both Fa’aolesa and So’oalo have been unsuccessful. But Auelua rejected the allegations.

“I understand that Afioga Papali’i John Taimalelagi has written to the Chairman of the Commission indicating the accusations you have alluded to,” Auelua said.

“I can confirm the accusation leveled against me is not true. I also understand that the Chairman of the Commission has already responded and this was received by Mr. Taimalelagi (via letter) — and I suggest that the Chairman's response should be read together with Mr. Taimalelagi's letter — to put in context the contents of the two documents into perspective.”

Two weeks ago when he was asked for a comment, P.S.C. Chairman Aiono confirmed the letter from Papali’i. Said Aiono:  “A letter in reply has been delivered to Afioga Papali'í John Taimalelagi. The letter is confidential.”

Incidentally, that letter turned up on the front page of the Samoa Observer last Sunday.

“It is well noted on the file that you were informed by the P.S.C. representative to engage independent legal counsel. Therefore, where you are said to have undertaken to seek the views and have your own discussion with various parties before entering your plea/submission that was a natter that you did undertake of your own free will,” Aiono wrote in response to Papali’i.

“Furthermore, the members of the government that you have identified in your letter have instructed Counsel for Government, that in the end, the final decision on whether to make admissions to the P.S.C. charges was ultimately made by you, not any of them.

“The final recommendation from P.S.C. was made with your admission to the charges and we note that you did also offer some explanations about your admitted actions, during the alleged offending. This therefore indicates to us, that you were in fact sincere about your admissions.

“It is also noted that the overall review of the evidence, when it was evaluated independently of your admissions was that it was overwhelming and supported by several witnesses.

“Finally your admissions, removed any need for the extensive evidence to be canvassed, including for example, recordings of a conversation that you did have with one of the complainants.”

Based on the response from P.S.C, Prime Minister Tuilaepa last week urged Papali’i to accept the termination of his services and move on. His message came with a veiled threat.

“The allegations leveled against the former C.E.O. are very damaging and will only humiliate him. My advice to Papali’i is to accept the decision,” Tuilaepa told the media. "If he moves forward with this matter, it will eventually lead to Court and all his dirty laundry will come out and yet it comes directly from the his (former) staff. I didn’t think he wouldn’t take this route and it will only bring harm to him personally.”

But that’s not all. Tuilaepa added: “I just received the letter and I am well versed with the matter at hand. I assumed the decision was final and there is no rebuttal. The allegations that he was forced — no one can force another person.”

The Prime Minister added that the accusations by the sacked C.E.O. are petty.

“The allegation against the Minister and a P.S.C. Commissioner member is a weak move on his part. The request was given by the Minister and it is the appropriate thing to do, but he (Papali’i) has the right to heed the advice or deny the request.”

Well Prime Minister Tuilaepa has got a point.

But Papali’i, like everyone else, is entitled to fairness, justice and the truth.

Besides, everyone should be treated the same before the law. The question today is this, who is investigated and who is not? Are there different laws for different people in Samoa? And isn’t it ironic that everything we are talking about today started from the halls of justice in Samoa?

Stay tuned!

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

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