Justice Chief says P.M's concerns "valid"

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Moliei Simi Vaai, says Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielelegaoi, is entitled to ask questions seeking clarification with regards to the work of the Court.

She also said Tuilaepa's concerns about bail procedures when it comes to criminal matters were "valid" and he could therefore raise questions.

The Chief Executive Officer made the points in an email response to questions from the Samoa Observer, after a letter Tuilaepa wrote to the C.E.O. questioning bail procedures was leaked and published in the Sunday Samoan.

The C.E.O. confirmed she had responded to Prime Minister Tuilaepa.

"The P.M. is entitled to ask questions for clarification," she said. "He had valid concerns so why shouldn’t he?"

Mrs. Vaai did not share a copy of her response with the Samoa Observer and she would not be drawn into questions surrounding the nature of Tuilaepa's letter.

Tuilaepa wrote to the C.E.O. in a letter dated 9th March, 2020 seeking an explanation on how the Courts granted bail to criminal defendants, and made specific reference to a decision in February that granted bail to Malele Paulo or King Faipopo and Lemai Faioso Sione. 

The pair have pleaded not guilty to a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister. 

The letter while addressed to Moliei was also copied to the Acting Chief Justice Vui Clarence Nelson; Land and Titles Court President President Fepulea'i Atilla Ropati and Supreme Court Justice, Tafaoimalo Leilani Warren Tuala. 

But Justice Tafaoimalo, in a bail hearing for Lemai on Tuesday, warned that the Prime Minister's letter could "undermine confidence" by the public in Samoa's justice system.

“Such correspondence has the potential to undermine confidence in the justice system, the integrity of the criminal process and can prejudice an accused’s right to a fair and impartial trial,” she said in Court on Tuesday.

Lemai's defense counsel, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, told Samoa Observer that the letter penned by Tuilaepa was inappropriate and suggested that the P.M. could have sought the advice from the Office of the Attorney General.

During Lemai's bail hearing on Tuesday, Justice Tafaoimalo urged the prosecution counsel, Leone Su’a, to address the issue and specifically made reference to the inappropriateness of writing to a Judge. 

“Any issues that parties may have must come through counsel and of course, if a party (in this case, the Prosecution or the accused) is dissatisfied with any decision of the Court, the party may appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal,” she said. 

The Member of Parliament for Salega East, Olo Fiti Vaai, also expressed concern and urged the head of Government to refrain from interfering with the work of the judiciary.

“It is understandable if he wrote [to the Judiciary] about misconduct of Judges, but to question the legal process of the Ministry, I don’t think that is appropriate,” said Olo.

“He needs to ask his Attorney General’s Office to explain the process to him if he has any questions, I mean that is what they are paid for.

“But this is clear that not only is he making decisions for the executive arm, he is now trying to interfere with the justice system, and it’s a contempt of Court to interfere with matters before the Court.” 

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