Prime Minister Tuilaepa, King Faipopo, and now Malele Atofu Paulo, where are they today?

When the Samoa Observer celebrated its’ 40th anniversary on 25 August 2018, the International Press Institute (I.P.I.), a global network of editors, publishers and leading journalists for press freedom, sent its Deputy Director, Scott Griffen, as its representative to the celebrations.  During his address, M. Scott Griffen, called on the Samoan government to repeal the Criminal libel law that had been reintroduced late in the previous year.

He made the call during a banquet in the capital of in Apia, honouring the Samoa Observer newspaper, which was celebrating its 40th anniversary at the time.

He said the law of Criminal libel, as we all knew, was activated by the Samoan government to punish the editor of the Samoa Observer by throwing him in jail for doing his job, which was telling the truth.

Mr. Griffen also said: “The Samoa Observer is the leading source of independent news in the South Pacific state, and for that very reason, repealing criminal libel is not a cure-all for press freedom, still it is indeed an important step forward.”

Speaking before an audience that included Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, Mr. Griffen said: “Journalists should never face jail for doing their jobs.”

He went on to remind that even though the Samoan government, had repealed Criminal libel in 2013 following years of campaigning by journalists in the country to quash it, it was reintroduced nevertheless following what the government had claimed, was growing online defamation.

Still, I.P.I’s Deputy Director, Scott Griffen, was far from being convinced. He said that while officials had not indicated they were planning to use the Law of Criminal Libel against journalists, he noted that the law had already been used to target the Samoa Observer and its founder and editor-in-chief, Savea Sano Malifa, whom I.P.I. had named one of its World Press Freedom Heroes in 2000.

He went on to say that “repealing criminal libel isn’t a cure-all for press freedom, but instead it is an important step forward.”

Indeed, it seemed clear at the time that he was directing his address as no other than Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

While officials have not indicated plans to use the measure against journalists, Griffen noted that the previous law had been used to target the Samoa Observer and its founder and editor-in-chief, Savea Sano Malifa.

Still, the truth showed up, on 5 June 2019. That was when Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, was reported to be a witness in the trial of a chap name King Faipopo, a pseudonym.  

By the way, the word Faipopo means he whose job is to gather brown coconuts, that are scattered all over the ground.

As for the trial itself, it was slated to be heard on, 22 July 2019.

As it turned out though, King Faipopo had a human name, Malele Atofu Paulo. He pleaded not guilty to two charges against him, one of which was in relation to a social media post targeting the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

There were also 13 additional charges against Paulo himself, who had been accused of making false statements designed to harm, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa’s reputation.

Represented by lawyers, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, and Josefina Fuimaono Sapolu, Malele Atofu Paulo - or King Faipopo if you prefer - pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

The presiding judge was District Court Judge, Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i, and lawyer Iliganoa Atoa, of the Attorney General’s Office, had told the Court that the complainant, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, was not available from June until the end of July.

Now Ms. Atoa told the Court that the complainant Tuilaepa was not available from June until the end of July, and that during that period, Samoa would be holding the Pacific Games.

Judge Alalatoa then scheduled the hearing for all the charges against Paulo to be heard on 22 July.

And now that Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, is not available from June until the end of July, where is King Faipoppo - or is he Malele Atofu Paulo - hiding today?

We truly want to know.

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