Lessons from an Associate Minister’s misdemeanors
It is a pity that the highs of last week had to end with bad press associated with a Government Associate Minister and a crash involving his official vehicle.
A front page article (Associate Minister issued traffic offence notice over car crash) in the 06 August 2022 edition of the Weekend Observer reported that the Police have issued Associate Minister of Police, Fepulea'i Fa'asavalu Su’a with a traffic offence notice after his brand new Ford Ranger vehicle crashed.
Police Commissioner, Auapaau Logoitino Filipo, confirmed that the Associate Minister and the Salega No. 1 M.P. was involved in a vehicle crash near the Loto Samasoni Bridge, connecting Malifa with Ma'agao.
"It was a single vehicle incident and no one else was involved," Auapaau told the Samoa Observer.
"The investigation is completed and it has amounted to a traffic offence notice.
“Under the Traffic Ordinance Act the person can either be given a summon to inform them of the careless driving and appear in Court or they can be issued with a traffic offence notice (TON) where they can pay for $100 tala fine...he [Associate Minister] has been given the notice and the offending falls on the lower scale."
The Police Commissioner said there was no evidence that the Associate Minister was under the influence nor that he was speeding, and added that it was raining on the day of the crash and the bridge has a warning sign that it could get slippery when it rains.
Suggestions of favouritism, due to the Police issuing a traffic offence notice and not letting him front up in Court, were dismissed by Auapaau who argued that members of the public were treated similarly for careless driving offences.
As the investigating authority, we will take the Police Commissioner’s word, as he had outlined key mitigating factors such as drinking (under the influence) and speeding, which would have worked against the Associate Minister if the Police were able to find the evidence.
But as an Associate Minister in the current Government and an M.P. in the Legislative Assembly, the fact that he has been cited by the Police and issued with a traffic offence notice for careless driving is not acceptable. The community and citizens expect Samoa’s legislators to lead by example and live exemplary lives.
It is unfortunate the traffic offence citation against the Associate Minister comes 14 months after the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster was charged by the Police for driving under the influence.
The traffic offence charge against Toeolesulusulu chipped bits of his and Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party’s integrity and even led to questions at that time about his suitability for a Cabinet portfolio.
Over a year later another F.A.S.T. Member and Associate Minister ends up on the wrong side of the law and is also cited for a traffic offence.
We wonder what Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa would be thinking following this latest indiscretion involving one of her Associate Ministers?
And does the issuing of the traffic offence notice by the Police – of which he is the responsible Associate Minister – make his own position as the Associate Minister of Police going forward untenable?
We ask these questions due to the concerns that the public has about Fepulea'i and his position as the Associate Minister of Police in the new Government. We believe Auapaau went out of his way to explain the rationale behind the Police’s decision to allay public fears that the Associate Minister was let off.
Another sticky issue that should be decided is who will foot the cost of the damages to the brand new Government-owned Ford Ranger.
Should the taxpayers of Samoa through the Government or the Ministry pay for the cost of damage to the new Ford Ranger or should this be the personal responsibility of the Associate Minister?
Fepulea'i was issued a traffic offence notice with the Police having concluded there was offending on his path, though on a lower scale and consequently he will pay a fine. The M.P. and Associate Minister should pay for the cost of the damages to the Government-owned vehicle and free taxpayers of that responsibility – he was afterall behind the wheel.
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