Claim against A.G. unjustified
It is unacceptable and worrying that our leaders cannot exercise restraint and good judgement when uttering lies and misinformation on their various social media platforms.
And in the age of the internet when false information can be spread like wildfire at the touch of a button – potentially having a calamitous effect on an individual or an organisation – this behaviour should be condemned and called out for what it is.
We all saw what happened during the five-month constitutional crisis this year, where misinformation and political propaganda perpetrated by the leaders of the former government became the order of the day.
In fact at one time the messaging from the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) leadership to its supporters became so divisive, we had fears that there would have been violence during the various protest marches, which the former ruling party led on Upolu and Savai’i following the installation of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Government by the Court of Appeal.
Sadly, three months after the end of the crisis, we are seeing the same type of false messaging propagated by politicians and party leaders being aired again on social media platforms.
The H.R.P.P. leader and former prime minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi alleged during a Facebook live broadcast last week, that the Attorney-General Su’a Hellene Wallwork-Lamb reduced the criminal charges in a District Court matter involving the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster who was discharged without conviction and slapped with a $2,000 fine for drunk driving.
However, Su’a on Monday said the statement is not true, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer which were published as a story in the 26 October 2021 edition of the newspaper (A.G. dismisses “reduced charges” claim).
“I did not reduce any charges against Mr. Schuster,” she said. “The accusation against me is unfounded.
“By the time I came into this role [as Attorney-General], the charges were already finalised and Mr. Schuster had already pleaded guilty to the charges against him.”
But the fact of the matter is that Su’a was not even the Attorney-General at the time of the Minister’s charging in June this year. She was appointed the interim Attorney-General in September this year while the Minister was charged in June and entered his plea to the offence in July.
However, Tuilaepa in his weekly press conference last Wednesday said the Judge should not be blamed for the outcome of the case as he claimed the decision of the court was based on a submission by the Attorney-General’s Office.
Thankfully, we now know that this claim by the former prime minister is false, as the Attorney-General revealed on Monday that the prosecution lawyer opposed an application for discharge without a conviction and had argued for a conviction for the parliamentarian.
Which brings us back to the concern we highlighted earlier: why did the former prime minister conjecture the story and go on to air it on social media when it was incorrect?
Is it because the Opposition leader’s political aides are feeding him with flawed information or is it Tuilaepa’s personal choice to disseminate inaccurate information to his party’s supporters and the public?
It is a pity we have to ask these questions of our former head of Government, having witnessed and reported on his two-plus decades of being in office and his administration’s immense contribution to Samoa’s development.
But we must say in recent years we have noticed an insatiable appetite on the path of the H.R.P.P. leader to launch personal attacks at individuals and on most occasions without justification and lacking the basic facts.
The current Attorney-General is the latest one to fall victim to this conduct and generally speaking it is unbecoming of a former prime minister.
It appears Toeolesulusulu as a F.A.S.T. Cabinet Minister was probably the real target of the verbal onslaught from Samoa’s longest serving politician. But it doesn’t vindicate him from his use of falsities to score political points, especially when it comes at the expense of a lawyer’s reputation, who wasn’t even the Attorney-General when the court proceedings initially began in July this year.
Nevertheless it is time for our leaders including the H.R.P.P. leader and his party cohorts to embrace more respectful language and discard lies and misinformation, which can create misunderstanding and conflict in the community.
Words can be powerful tools for transformation hence our leaders should strive for more respectful fact-based statements to draw the community together and unite rather than create more disharmony after a tumultuous year.
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