P.M. vows to clear name in assassination claims

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi has openly spoken about allegations he was involved in the assassination of a former cabinet colleague and revealed the impact on his family.

Paulo Malele, also known as King Faipopo, has pleaded guilty plea to a charge of criminal libel against the Prime Minister under section 117A of the Crimes Act 2013. He will face sentencing on August 8.

Vowing to clear his name on his weekly radio programme recently, P.M. Tuilaepa revealed that he would take the stand against Malele.

“Normally in such cases my presence is not required but given the important of this matter to me, as these are hefty and damaging allegations (by Paulo) I wanted to.

"Not only that, my children have been implicated. I have to protect my children and, as the saying goes, rocks will rot but not words. 

"That is why I made the choice to testify in court."

Tuilaepa outlined why he was unable to simply ignore the allegations, which are contained in social media posts made by Malele, who was arrested upon arriving back in Samoa for his mother's funeral.

“The allegations levelled against me are substantial yet I am the father of this nation, the leader of this Government and also a leader in Parliament, these are the titles that I carry on my shoulders. 

“I am also a Christian a reflection of our constitution of our country that Samoa is a Christian state. 

“I also took into account the viewpoint of our overseas Government partners looking in and yet here I am being accused murder."

Tuilaepa said the gravity of the allegations and their potential to cause harm on broader society compelled him to file a police complaint.  

“If I don’t address these issues that means I am not protecting the dignity of the leaders of the Samoa Government, the church ministers and [the] faith the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) have in me when they elected me as the leader of the party," he said. 

“I have forgiven him in my heart but how do I address the damaging allegations that he publicly made? 

“The allegation affects me, my wife and my entire family here and abroad".

Tuilaepa wanted Malele to bring his evidence in Court to back his allegations. 

“And once the Court rules for it, I will resign from my post as I cannot be a leader if I am sinful. 

“I was chosen to sit in this chair by the entire country through their respective, members of parliament within the H.R.P.P.

“Not only that my children have been implicated; I have to protect my children and as the saying goes, rocks will rot but not words that is why I made the choice to testify in court.”

The Prime Minister shared his memories of the assassination of his colleague, then Public Works Minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu, on the night of the ruling party's 20th anniversary: July 16 1999. (Alatise Leafa Vitale was convicted of the murder). 

"It was around 8 pm when we started our service," the Prime Minister said. 

“I was with Luagalau and Tagaloa Tuala Kerslake who was a Cabinet Minister and we were all in uniform: white shirts and a black tie. 

"Luagalua took the podium first and introduced me for my remarks for the special event.

“Luagalau then walked to the back of the stage while I start with my speech and there was a loud bang and I immediately assumed that it was the P.A. speaker acting up. 

"It wasn’t until I saw people running to the back [that] I followed and found the Minister lying there in a pool of blood; he was shot by Alatise who took off running, and yes the same Alatise who was drinking with Malele.

“It was on a Friday, when Luagalau was assassinated and his burial was the following Thursday and, up to then there was no suspect. 

The Prime Minister said the Police were able to compile a description of the shooter based on the testimony of witnesses. 

“On Thursday night the police went on national television and sought public assistance (on locating) the shooter, who was wearing an army jacket, a red hat and was walking around with a duffel bag which contained the gun used to kill the Cabinet Minister," he said. 

“On Friday morning, I came into the office and a witness approached me and identified who the shooter was. 

Witnesses said they had seen the shooter pass by a volleyball game outside their church, wearing the clothes matching police description. 

“I called the Commissioner and the police took over from then on, and Alatise was arrested the following week," Tuilaepa said.

“The witness and his family was flown to New Zealand for safety reasons and only came back to Samoa at the time of the hearing, after all he was main witness for the Government. 

“And Toi (Aukuso former Cabinet Minister) admitted in Court that he was aware of the plans to murder Luagalau, but he refused to be a part of it, but (former Cabinet Minister) Leafa carried on with the plans.” 

Tuilaepa said Toi’s testimony was too late; he came forward but the murder had already happened. 

The Prime Minister said the online claims of his involvement in the assassination, were not the only ways in which his character had been tarnished in online posts. 

“I was accused of killing Luagalau and yet Malele was drinking with the killer; I have also been accused of stealing and I also stole customary lands and that I was in charge of smuggling containers filled with guns into the country," he said. 

"And yet a total contrary to what I actually do and that is keeping the peace.” 

The Prime Minister noted the other Government witness in the Malele case is the Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, whose Ministry monitors social media posts and comments attacking the Government including posts by the O.L.P. 

The Prime Minister also relayed a message for Samoans living abroad.  

“The Samoa Government prioritise employment opportunity overseas for our people, something that was started by my predecessor, we also made it much easier for Samoans to travel to New Zealand and Australia, not only for work employment but also our athletes," he said.

"And in return, they provide for their families in Samoa.  

“My advice to the Samoans living overseas, utilise the opportunity wisely and put your children to school and apply for a citizenship in case something happens and you’ll end up in Samoa. 

"But don’t move overseas and then attack the Government that paved the way to make it easier for you to seek employment overseas.” 

Tuilaepa said information relayed to him by the Attorney General is that Malele pleaded guilty to criminal libel and that means the allegations against him are false.  

The Prime Minister's written account of the events surrounding the assassination are in his memoir, Palemia.  

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