Fence incomplete at $18.2 million prison

The high security fence around the $18.2 million Tanumalala Prison remains incomplete, nine months after the prison’s opening, it was confirmed days after a massive breakout at the prison.

Some 36 prisoners broke out of the prison on Monday evening. 

But the fence around the prison’s perimeter, which had been breached in an earlier escape in October, remains subject to a contract variation proposal being reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office. 

Authorities say the unfinished works had no bearing on the Monday episode, which they said was the result of guards being overpowered. 

The Minister of Police, Prison and Correction Services, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, told the Samoa Observer that the variation to the contract was with the Transwork Company. 

“The [issue with the] variation of the contract is not the cost," he said. "Rather [it] is the extension of the contract from last year and it has to be reviewed by the Attorney General."

The original contract was $2 million. 

The Government's supplementary budget included $1.3 million in funding donated from the Japanese Government, a total amount from which the contract variation will be drawn. 

The Minister said the variation is for extension of the contract for up to three months but the price of the contract remains at the same. 

“The delays had to do with bad weather and the measles epidemic led to the variation of the time the project [took to] complete,” said Tialavea. 

The issue over the fence surfaced during a press conference with the Police Commissioner Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil and the outgoing Commissioner of Prison, Taitosaua Edward Winterstein, over the mass prison breakout.

Four prisoners remained at large as of Wednesday evening.

During the Tuesday press conference, Taitosaua said the prisoners did not escape through the unfinished gate; rather through the front gate. 

Commissioner Fuiavaili’ili intervened to say that the unfinished fence has no bearing as to what happened at the prison. 

“The seven prions guards rushed and 50 plus prisoners had free range in the prison, the offices, they turned off the power and went down to where the [women’s cells were] and they also went to where the custodies are held. 

They also made it to the administration building and they walked out of the main gate.

“But the fence has to be completed, but for this particular issue here is that, the guards were overpowered,” said Commissioner Fuiavaili’ili.  

The prison is not equipped with closed-circuit television (C.C.T.V.) monitoring, the Samoa Observer understands. 

Among the four prisoners still on the loose, are several who are behind bars for offences relating to theft and narcotics. 

Repeat escapee Silao Faaleleiga (also known by Leleiga) was in prison for possession of narcotics and burglary and theft. In May last year he was apprehended after escaping Tafaigata Prison. 

And Matthew Fili Solo, who was out on bail when he stole more than $20,000 worth of mobile phones from then-Bluesky’s offices.

Francis Heather is serving time for possession of narcotics, and Misi Ioasa was sentenced for robbery, actual bodily harm and possession of narcotics.






Bg pattern light


Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?