Aussie Senator’s comments another red flag for Samoa

The comments made by an Australian Senator about the Government's application to extradite Talalelei Pauga, who has been accused of conspiring to assassinate Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, are important and timely.

It’s an important reminder about why the concept of separation of powers is critical in any functioning democracy. It is also timely given the concerns about the Government’s plans to reshape the Judiciary through the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Judicature Bill 2020 and Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and the threat this poses to the Judiciary’s independence and integrity.

But before we continue, we want to make it absolutely clear that we do not want to offer a view on the allegation against Mr. Pauga or the nature of the Government’s application to have him brought to Samoa to stand trial. These are serious allegations that are before the Court and it is where they should stay until such a time where a decision is made and when it is appropriate to offer an opinion.

What we do want to highlight are concerns expressed internationally about the Government’s interference in the judiciary. Whether we agree with it or not, these cannot be good for Samoa’s international standing, especially in the eyes of the free world. For the simple reason that in a functioning democracy where the separation of powers are respected, the demarcation between the Government and the judiciary’s functions is quite clear.

Yet from what we have seen in Samoa over the years, the line has been blurred quite badly and even worse deliberately. And while it might be accepted to some people in the realms of Samoa’s one-party state democracy, this is not normal in the eyes of the world.  The views of Australian Senator, Janet Rice, with regards to her concerns about an Australian citizen being extradited to Samoa highlights this glaring error.

“It is particularly concerning that the Prime Minister of Samoa has intervened by writing to the Ministry of Justice criticising bail decisions in relation to the two other individuals charged in the case associated with Mr. Pauga, especially considering Mr. Pauga has been a critic of the Samoan Prime Minister,” Senator Rice said. “It is of the utmost importance that Mr. Pauga be given a fair trial and that the Australian Government takes all appropriate steps to ensure his rights are protected.”

Earlier Senator Rice called for an independent, fair process to examine the allegations against Mr. Pauga, noting that Amnesty International Pacific has also expressed concern about the matter. She reminded that Amnesty International has also raised concerns about interference and concerns of the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of Judges in Samoa and the absence of the separation of powers.

She’s got a valid point. But Amnesty International and the UN Special Rapporteur are only a few of countless well respected international experts who have expressed similar concerns about the L.T.C. Bills and what the Government is advocating in terms of wholesale changes to the Judiciary. This does not include a host of local legal and judicial experts who have voiced their objections to the bills, calling for them to be scrapped.

Of course Prime Minister Tuilaepa and the Government can ignore them. Of course they can respond by calling them names and what have you but that’s not going to help Samoa in the long run.

Senator Rice’s views, unfortunately for Samoa, reflect a perception that is out there among members of the international community about the total disregard, abuse and the trampling on democratic values and principles here in Samoa. But let us be reminded today that Samoa needs the respect of the international community. Prime Minister Tuilaepa might think that he is king of his castle but this country does not operate in vacuum, especially given Samoa’s reliance on aid and international handouts.

So what’s the solution? How can Prime Minister Tuilaepa solve this international embarrassment?

The way we see it, it’s quite simple. All he needs to do is revisit the wise words of his recently appointed Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese, about the importance of the concept of the separation of powers.

When His Honour Perese took his oath earlier this year, it was the first thing he reminded the Government, almost as if he knew the concerns that would arise from what the Government is doing in Samoa today.

"The Constitution by which Samoa obtained independence established three parts of government in Samoa,” he said.

“The Parliament being elected representatives of the people who are responsible for making the laws of Samoa; the Executive who have the power to exercise executive power to run the country; and the third branch of government is the Judiciary, who interpret and administer the law in accordance with its jurisdiction to possess and exercise all the jurisdiction, power and authority, which may be necessary to administer the laws of Samoa".

 “The mechanisms by which the Judiciary’s independence is preserved are well established…The three branches of government are independent of each other, and that is what we call the separation of powers. We do not act together as a committee, but rather three separate parts of a whole.”

Well that’s pretty easy to understand, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

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