P.M. issues legal threat against Church, TV1
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has instructed the Office of the Attorney General to initiate a "libel and criminal probe" against the leader of the Samoan Independent Seventh Day Adventist Church (S.I.S.D.A.C.) and the Samoa Broadcasting Company Limited.
In a statement issued by the Press Secretariat, Prime Minister Tuilaepa warns S.I.S.D.A.C's World Leader, Pastor Willie Papu and TV1 to "expect the Government’s full legal wrath."
Tuilaepa also made the point quite clear when he spoke in Parliament during the budget debate.
“This is character assassination," Tuilaepa said. "It’s worse than murder because the public shame will be inherited by the victim and his or her children forever."
The Prime Minister claimed that he was chastised by Pastor Papu, who accused him of enflaming violence and unrest among the churches. The Pastor further alleged that Tuilaepa’s appointment as the Government Leader was influenced by a foreign government.
The Prime Minister strongly rejected the allegations in Parliament.
“Small knowledge is extremely dangerous," he said. “These slanderous opinions are unacceptable not only in Samoa but for all Christian faithful’s and communities worldwide.”
“The S.I.S.D.A.C. Pastor like many individuals are obsessed with their hallucinations that they are protected under the freedom of speech and freedom of expression rights which gives them free reign to publicly shame and discriminate any individual, organisation, church or government without facing any legal consequences.
“I can assure you Mr. Speaker and Members of Parliament that there is no absolute right to freedom of expression.
“This was proven in the landmark case between the late Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana as plaintiff against the Samoa Observer newspaper.
“The unprecedented court ruling in favour of the plaintiff had exquisitely reaffirmed that that there are restrictions which includes freedom of expression taking into account our unique customs and aganu’u. It’s all in our law books as well as our Constitution.”
The Prime Minister also voiced his disappointments with TV1 Samoa for airing the sermon sayings it’s a poor reflection on the station’s leadership.
“These kind of programmes should have been censored by TV1,” said Tuilaepa. “It should never have been aired and along with many of the viewers who have shared this discontent with me in person, I am very disappointed with the lack of professionalism.”
On that note, the Prime Minister reiterated that TV1 is just as responsible and accountable as the S.I.S.D.A.C. Pastor and they will be made to answer.
The Minister of Police and Corrections, Tiavalea Tionisio Hunt, has also ordered a criminal investigation to be carried out.
“The sermons on TV1 n my view it’s a bit too much. And the Ministry of Police will look into whether any laws have been violated," he said in Parliament.
“We act in accordance with the law. If the law say they cannot act unless a criminal complaint has been filed, come in to file your complaint."
The Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, urged the Minister of Police to act on the complaint immediately.
“Why do we need to come in, when we have raised it directly with you here?” asked the Speaker. “The sermons [aired] are offensive,” added Leaupepe.
The issue was first raised by M.P. Fuimaono Te'o Samuelu on Tuesday .
"This is unchristian like and something has to be done about it,” Fuimaono said.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa reminded Parliament that TV1 should have considered the content of the programme carefully.
“This is the core reason the Medial Council was established to address issues as such."
The S.I.S.D.A.C. office in Apia was contacted for a comment from Pastor Papu. An official who identified herself as "Amanda" said queries will be referred to S.I.S.D.A.C's Executive Secretary, Pastor Papalii Iafeta Masipau, for a comment. She said Pastor Papu resides in New Zealand and she did not have a telephone number for him.
On Tuesday, the General Manager of Samoa Broadcasting Corporation Limited (S.B.C.L.), Galumalemana Faiesea Matafeo, said S.I.S.D.A.C. was entitled to broadcasting services, like all other denominations.
"Yes we are broadcasting S.I.S.D.A.C's sermons," Galumalemana said in an email.
"S.I.S.D.A.C. is entitled to the broadcastintg services as all other different churches. We have raised concern with the Church leaders. It is a matter of personal interpretation."