Revoking of top cops’ contracts bad timing
Let’s be honest, right now the nation demands that its public servants stand tall, in line with the oath that they swore to public office to serve the people without fear or favour.
But some of them went off track since the conclusion of the 9 April 2021 General Election, and were blatantly complicit in attempts to upend the results of the April election, and ultimately undermine the Constitution.
It is tragic and bizzare and despite the best efforts of the Public Service Commission, to get everyone to tow the line of political neutrality and act with impartiality during these uncertain times, it becomes farcical when Government ministry heads dabble in politics adding fuel to the fire.
But one group of public servants have risen to the occasion in recent weeks and boldly declared they will uphold the Constitution: the Samoa Police Service and its men and women in uniform.
On the morning of Monday 24 May 2021, when the XVII Legislative Assembly should have convened in line with the orders of the Supreme Court, Police Commissioner Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil was on the ground at Mulinu’u with his men and women to maintain the peace and to escort the Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Sativa Perese and his judges to what was a locked Parliament.
On the afternoon of the same day, the Police guarded the precinct of the Parliament and witnessed history in the making, when Samoa’s first woman Prime Minister-elect was sworn-in under a tent with Members-elect of her Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party in keeping with the 45-days constitutional deadline for the new Legislative Assembly to convene.
This and other matters are now the subject of various Court proceedings.
A week later, when the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) urged its women supporters to converge at Mulinu’u on Monday for a peaceful march and for chiefs from Upolu and Savai’i to meet at Malae o Tiafau, Police presence ensured there was civility despite rising tensions.
Therefore, the role of the Police Service in maintaining peace and good order in the community and the country, at such a precarious juncture of our history should not be downplayed.
And revelations of the caretaker Cabinet overturning a recent decision to extend the contracts of current Commissioner Fuiavaili'ili and Deputy Commissioner Papalii Monalisa Keti are a cause for concern.
Fuiavaili'ili and Papalii have been exemplary in their leadership of the Police during a critical period for Samoa and pushing for a change of guard now – with the country’s leadership still at loggerheads over who represents the legitimate government – does not augur well for stability within the Police Service and over the long-term the wellbeing of the nation and its people.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Secretary to Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo, has confirmed the two senior officers had their contract extensions revoked.
“Apropos your enquiry on the Police Commissioner's and Deputy Police Commissioner's contracts, Cabinet at its meeting FK(21)19 issued on 27th May 2021 approved the advertisement of the Police and Prisons Commissioner's position as per requirements of the Police Service Act 2009,” Agafili told the Samoa Observer.
The Police Commissioner’s contract is set to expire next month.
Surely both senior police officers can have their contracts temporarily extended out of necessity due to the current prevailing conditions?
Now that Fuiavaili'ili and Papalii are no longer Police officers will their replacements have the same work ethic and adherence to upholding Samoa’s Constitution during a politically-sensitive time?
And what impact will the exit of Fuiavaili'ili and Papalii have on the rank-and-file within the Police Service?
We understand that caretaker Governments should defer making significant appointments during this period until the swearing-in of a new administration following a general election.
But it should be asked whether the caretaker Cabinet asked the pertinent questions raised above and considered the implications of their decision before revoking Fuiavaili'ili and Papalii’s contract extensions.
The crisis that the country currently faces warrants the caretaker Cabinet revisiting its decision to consider putting the Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner on acting appointments.
The two officers earned their stripes in recent weeks in how the Police Service and its members handled themselves – this is their calling and they should be given every opportunity to complete the job.