Government to review drug penalties: P.M.
A recent influx of drugs intercepted at the border has prompted the Government to consider increasing criminal penalties for drug trafficking, the Prime Minister says.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi said on his program with TV3 this week that there was a need to reconsider penalties of drug convictions.
His remarks follow a seizure this week at the wharf which led to Police confiscating 900 grams of methamphetamine. An earlier, December bust found inside the same shipment netted some 500 grams of the same drug, which the Ministry of Customs and Revenue said was a record haul for law enforcement.
The street value of both drug consignments was valued at $500,000, according to Police estimates, and their combined weight was some 1.4 kilograms.
A customs officer was charged in relation to this week’s bust; the consignment was believed to have been addressed directly to him. But Police are continuing to investigate possible connections between that and the December seizure; the official has been charged only for his alleged involvement in this week’s seizure, not last year’s.
“This is not a new issue and under the current law, it says that a fine [of] up to $100,000 [can be imposed]. The key word is 'up to' meaning there can be no fine,” Tuilaepa said.
The Prime Minister also criticised Judges who were “deceitful” in their decisions, driving a need to amend the law to insert “not under” for fines spelled out in legislation to ensure that criminals received maximum penalties.
“It should say the penalty is a fine not under $100,000 and it’s the wording, meaning it can be a fine of $1 million tala but not under $100,000,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister the reason for the current fines outlined in the laws is to align Samoan legislation with that of other countries around the world.
He then commended the Commissioner of Customs and Revenue, Matafeo Avalisa Viali-Fautuaali’i, and her staff for being prompt in the protection of the borders.
“This clearly shows the cargo ships [are] being used as means to smuggle drugs into the country,” said the Prime Minister.
He said it was important for the Police to protect Samoa’s borders for the safety of its people from the dangers of drug addiction.
In Parliament this week, Member of Parliament, Fa'aulusau Rosa Duffy-Stowers, called for tougher prison sentences for those found guilty of drug offences.
The Gagaifomauga No. 3 M.P. suggested that Samoa should practice handing down life sentences for those found guilty of drug offences.
“[This is] a suggestion to the Minister [of Police] if the laws can be reviewed, in regards to penalties for those involved in crimes pertaining to illegal substances,” she said.
“To put the penalty very high; like other countries, the criminals are sentenced to life imprisonment when it comes to these illegal drugs. It will show the importance this [country] places on the safety of our children.”
Fa’aulusau commended the village council of Faleatiu for assisting the Police in their work to tackle the longstanding problem of drug crime within that village.
“This is good work; it is good work that would be nice if [it was] adopted by other villages to capture those who continue to be involved in these offences,” she said.
The Police Minister also made an appeal to the public to join efforts to locate possible drug labs.
“The Police need the assistance of the public. If someone knows where such substances are being made in the country, I ask that you alert the Police,” Minister Tialavea Tionisio Hunt said.
“The Police cannot do it alone – to apprehend those who are behind these crimes – the help of the people is needed.”