Samoa Observer

'They should've immediately seized the boat': Fiamē

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'They should've immediately seized the boat': Fiamē

By Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi 04 May 2023, 7:38PM

Prime Minister, Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa has admitted there was a security lapse when a boat entered Samoan waters from American Samoa and traveled to Savai'i without proper documentation.

Speaking in her capacity as the Minister for Immigration, the Prime Minister told a press conference in her office at the Government Building on Thursday that she is of the view that the local authorities should have taken proper action when the vessel failed to provide all the necessary documentation.

She said the action by the local authorities should have included the seizing of the vessel and the detaining of its crew when it entered Samoan territorial waters. 

The Ministry of Police, Prisons, and Corrections Services (M.P.P.C.S.) has been directed to furnish a final report on the matter, according to the Prime Minister. 

Her comments were in response to questions from the media on the American Samoa-registered vessel which was seized by the Police last week in Savai'i and later released. 

"The truth is there were lapses in how we handled this case," Fiamē said. "From what we gathered so far, our officials did not immediately seize the boat at Matautu and detain the people who were on board. Instead, they ran around and tried to get all the necessary papers and permits for the boat. 

"But they should have immediately seized the boat here at Matautu when they discovered that they did not have the required documentation and permit to enter our borders. 

"It is also alleged that the boat made a stop at the Mulifanua wharf and picked up some stuff before heading to Savai'i so there were no issues here (Matautu) but the police were only notified about the boat when the officials at the Salelologa wharf saw that the boat was unloading stuff and goods at the wharf when it arrived in Savai'i."

The Prime Minister also said that the way the responsible officials from the different Government ministries got involved "was not good". 

"Our officials were the ones running around trying to get the paper works done when the boat arrived, something the people who own the boat should have done beforehand," she said. "Naturally, the right thing to do is, if they don't have the proper documentation and permits and if they entered our borders unlawfully, we should immediately seize the boat. 

"They can get all the documentation done after, but that should've been the proper thing to do at first, was to detain the boat here and disallowed it from going anywhere. This is not a good thing for us because it shows that the officials are not carrying out their duties and responsibilities."

When asked whether the Government would charge the vessel's owner or penalise him for entering Samoa's borders "unlawfully", Fiamē said it could be too late to go down that path. 

"In my view, the boat should have never been released in the first place and have it detained. But because they've already released the boat, the advice from the Attorney General is that it might be too late to press charges or fine the owner of the boat. This is because our officials allowed the boat into the country and authorised it to go to Savai'i so we're at fault."

This newspaper contacted the Chief Executive Officers (C.E.O.s) for all the relevant Government ministries and agencies on Monday to query if the vessel had all the necessary documentation required prior to entering Samoan waters. But there has been no response to date. 

The boat belongs to the owner of Paramount Builders Inc. in American Samoa, Papali’i Laulii Alofa. Government officials confirmed that the well-known businessman is from Salelologa, Savai’i, from the Seumanu family who gathered for a funeral and ceremonial bestowal at Salelologa last week.

By Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi 04 May 2023, 7:38PM
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