Prime Minister rubbishes American Samoa Court's "delay" claims

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has rubbished claims by an American Samoa Court that the Government's diplomats in the American territory are trying to delay orders forcing Samoan citizens to return home.  

Last week, American Samoa District Court Judge, Elvis Patea, accused Samoa’s Consulate Office in the U.S territory of trying to dodge his orders, forcing citizens of Samoa to return home. 

The Court had ordered two Samoa citizens, Keneti Filisi and Papu Ioane, to depart the territory, local media reported, but the men remained in the territory several months later due to a lack of travel documents. 

During his weekly media programme, Tuilaepa said Court orders are carried out by the Police according to standard procedure and were not a matter for the country's diplomatic service. 

“It has nothing to do with [the] Consulate office; it’s an order of the court which should be carried out by the Police,” he said. 

The American Samoa Court had subpoenaed Samoa’s Consul General, Fonoti Etuale Ioane, the American Samoa Attorney General, Talauega Eleasalo Ale, and the Deputy Legal Counsel to the Governor, Alema Leota, to a hearing concerning the two convicted citizens of Samoa. 

The A.G. and deputy legal counsel to the governor appeared were in court but Samoa’s Consul general did not attend. 

The court was informed that Consul General of Samoa had diplomatic immunity which exempted him from obligations. 

“I am surprised the Consulate office has been ordered to carry out orders of the Court, I have never heard of anything that like before," said Tuilaepa.

“It is the duty of the Police to carry out orders of the Court."

Talanei News reported that Judge Patea observed that for convicted citizens of Samoa with travel documents obtained by local sponsors or relatives there were seldom problems obeying court orders. 

But, the Judge said, in cases where a defendant's sponsor has died or emigrated and local representatives are involved in processing their travel documents delays are often encountered. 

The Judge claimed the Samoa Consulate often changes requirements when applying for travel documentation on their citizens' behalf. 

The American Samoa A.G. reportedly reflected on the conflict between the court's local authority and international law. He noted that Samoa's had adopted rules to prevent a wave of expatriates and emigrants being deported from foreign countries back to Samoa.

He said they have been trying with the Office of the Governor working with the Prime Minister’s Office to work out a set of rules to deal with such cases, as many of those being sent back arrived on 30 day permits.

Judge Patea has set a status hearing for the two cases in three weeks.

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