L.T.C. Judge among seventeen arrested, charged for alleged drunk driving
A Judge of the Lands and Titles Court, Feagaimaali’i Nanai Malaeliua, was among seventeen drivers arrested following a Police operation into motorists driving while under the influence conducted on Friday and Saturday night last week.
Among the drivers charged during the two-night operation were Police Officer, Solomona Mavaeao, Police Finance Officer, Raymond Faapoi, an Assistant Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Aumua Ronnie Fereti, the Samoa Observer's Digital Manager, Jarrett Malifa and others.
The charges were confirmed by the Commissioner of Police, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil and Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration Assistant C.E.O., Ve’atauia Fa’atasi Puleiata.
“I can confirm there was [...one] member [of the Judiciary], a Judge of the Lands and Titles Court [who was charged] for drunk driving over the weekend,” Fuiava said.
The L.T.C. Judge was charged on Friday night after passing through a Police checkpoint but allegedly failing to comply with a legal requirement to give a breathalyser reading.
Feagaimaali’i declined to comment when contacted by the Samoa Observer at his office on Wednesday.
“I cannot comment as I have retained a lawyer,” said the L.T.C. Judge over the phone.
A.C.E.O. Aumua was charged on the same night and for the same reason, Ve’atauia confirmed.
Mr. Malifa was charged on Saturday night.
“They were charged over the weekend and they spent the night in custody," said Ve'atauia. "[Feagaimaali’i and Aumua] are charged with failing to comply with [a] lawful requirement [to provide a breathalyser reading] and [Mr. Malifa] is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
“They were all released [from custody] the next day. They will appear in court on 7 July, 2020."
Asked for a comment, Aumua disputed the wording of the “charge.”
“That wording '[failing] to comply with [a] lawful requirement' is wrong," he said. "What is the lawful requirement that wasn’t adhered to?"
Mr. Malifa confirmed the charge and said that the matter was now with the Police and he will let the Court process take its course.
Efforts to get comments from Constable Mavaeao and Finance Officer Fa’apoi were unsuccessful as of press time.
In the meantime, Commissioner Fuiava said the Police arrested a total of 17 people over the weekend in relation to drunk driving offences: “Two of them are a member of my staff. One civilian and one sworn [police officer] were also arrested," he said.
The Commissioner said that any incident that results in Government officials being charged was disappointing:
“We don’t take pride in arresting anyone and it is unfortunate that we are making this type of arrest involving Government officials as well, it is very disappointing,” he said.
“The advice is don’t drink and drive, the Police will be out there all weekend including Sunday and Monday and we will be holding roadblocks and checkpoints and we're asking everyone: 'if you’re going to consume alcohol do it responsibly'."