P.M. must respect rule of law, Unasa says

The lawyer representing two men who were the subject of a letter from the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, questioning their being granted bail says the country’s leader must respect the rule of law. 

Senior lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, said the letter penned by Tuilaepa to the Ministry of Justice, Courts and Administration’s Chief Executive Officer, Moliei Simi Vaai, is concerning. 

Unasa is representing Lema’i Faioso Sione and Malele Paulo - also known as King Faipopo. 

The men were released on bail with strict conditions after being in custody for more than six months since they were charged for conspiring to murder the Prime Minister. 

But after the men were released on bail in February, Tuilaepa wrote to the C.E.O. of Justice demanding answers to Court processes for granting bail. 

Unasa has questioned the intention of the Prime Minister and the inference his letter makes about the presiding Judge. 

“He doesn’t respect the rule of law and he needs to remember that the symbol of justice is a blindfolded woman,” said Unasa. 

The lawyer is referring to Lady Justice, an ancient representation of the rule of law, most often depicted as a woman wearing a blindfold. 

The symbolic Lady Justice represents impartiality and the idea that justice should be applied without regard to wealth, power or other status, said Unasa. 

“Justice doesn’t care who you are and your status,” she said. 

“But what he is trying to do here is to introduce [himself] in the mind of the woman delivering justice and what his preference is.” 

The letter dated 9 March 2020 also copied the Acting Chief Justice, Vui Clarence Nelson, President of the Lands and Titles Court, Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati and Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala – Warren. 

Justice Tafaoimalo presided over the matter. 

She will be delivering her decision on Lema’i’s bail on Tuesday this week after the accused was taken back in custody for failing to sign at the Police station. 

Speaking about the letter, Unasa said she felt offended by the Prime Minister’s reference to the Judiciary Service Commission (J.S.C.) in the letter questioning what they are doing about the issues he raised. 

“I’m offended that he is putting the J.S.C. out there, the very people that will be given the power to sack the Judges when the L.T.C. Bills are passed,” she said. 

The three bills are the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020. 

The lawyer also referenced the “attitude” displayed by the Prime Minister in questioning the presiding Judge but also the Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa in parliament last week is an insult to women. 

She said this attitude from men that undermines the women of Samoa goes against the covenant of respect between a brother and sister. 

“It's just no excuse for him to insult the Deputy Prime Minister and our women in public,” she said. 

“Domestic violence is always affecting our women and children and this is an example of what our young men can in turn say it’s okay we can speak to our women because it's coming from the top. 

“It’s concerning and it just brings down women's confidence and what we are telling the United Nation that we are fair with women…”

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, expressed her views about an amendment in the Electoral Act about place of residency. 

But after she spoke about the amendment in which she made it clear she was not opposing the piece of legislation, Tuilaepa had rebuked her for saying she should raise her views before the Committee. 

After she spoke about the amendments, Tuilaepa said that Fiame, and any other Cabinet Minister, should resign if they had objections to proposed legislation. 

The Prime Minister said that speaking critically was something that should be reserved for Cabinet meetings.

He later made a comparison of speeches critical of legislation to those who were like the devil seeking to stop something good. 

Fiame retorted back questioning the Prime Minister to ask if he was comparing her to the devil for sharing her views in Parliament. 

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