Top Govt. official denies assaulting businessman

A senior Government official has denied allegations he assaulted a businessman during a Government meeting in a dispute over printed meeting handouts. 

Commercial Farmer and businessman, Papali'i Panoa Tavita, was allegedly assaulted by the an Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.) last Thursday. 

But the man accused of the assault, Lupeomanu Pelenato Fonoti,  strongly denied the incident. 

“Nothing happened,” he said, when contacted by the Samoa Observer. 

“That’s a lie. If I did assault him I should’ve been arrested by now."

Lupeomanu is the Assistant Chief Executive Officer for Quarantine at M.A.F.

The alleged incident took place at the Quarantine Office at Matautu during the Pesticide Technical Committee Meeting chaired by the (M.A.F.) Chief Executive Officer, Tilafono David Hunter. 

Lupeomanu said if a Police complaint was filed he would await the outcome of an investigation. 

But Papali'i is adamant that he was assaulted by the Assistant C.E.O. 

The businessman, who is a former C.E.O. of the Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.), said he had complained to authorities. 

“I can confirm that he did punch me on the mouth,” he alleged. 

“It is lucky that my jaw is not broken. I am having trouble chewing my food.” 

The 67-year-old, who is a member of the Pesticide Committee, said the incident began with queries about why documents had not been distributed to members of the meeting. 

Papali'i alleged that the Assistant C.E.O., who is responsible for circulating meeting documents, said it was a waste of time and ink to do so as the members do not read the papers. 

“I responded to what he had said and I said that that is an assumption from him but it is not true,” claimed Papalii. 

“So that is how it started and then he said he was going to punch my mouth and I said to him to go ahead and do it. 

“He actually did and I didn’t expect it.” 

Papali'i said he has also filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) on the conduct of the Assistant C.E.O. 

The M.A.F. C.E.O. Tilafono was contacted for comment. 

“There has been an investigation and I apologise I cannot comment further,” said the C.E.O. 

He added that no decision on the Assistant C.E.O. will be made until the investigation is completed.

“A person is innocent until proven guilty," he said. 

Asked what investigation he was referring to, Tilafono said there were separate probes by both the Police and Public Service Commission.

Questions sent to the Acting Police Commissioner, Papali'i Monalisa Keti, were not responded to at press time. 

The P.S.C. did not immediately respond to queries on the matter. 

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