Work of N.P.O. scrutinised as Tribunal begins
The proceedings in a Cabinet appointed Tribunal to determine the future of the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O.) is underway at Tuana’imato.
Central to the Tribunal’s work is the investigation of the conduct of the suspended Director of the National Prosecution Office, Mauga Precious Chang, and her associate, Muriel Lui.
Chaired by Sir Robert Grant Hammond, the other members of the Tribunal are Tuiloma Neroni Slade and Alalatoa Rosella Viane-Papali’i. The Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Rezlaff is also involved.
Closed to the media, the Tribunal is held at the makeshift Office of Legislative Assembly at the Faleata Sports Complex.
Ordered by Cabinet last year, the Tribunal is answerable to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. Mauga was suspended by Cabinet last August following a Police investigation and review by an independent prosecutor of charges filed against her. Her suspension was for an initial period of three months while her case underwent standard judicial process.
The charges against her have since been dismissed but the decision is being appealed.
In her absence, Acting Director, Muriel Lui assumed the responsibilities and duties of the Director of the National Prosecution Office.
However, in October last year, Ms. Lui was also suspended by Cabinet.
“Cabinet has noted the continued refusal of the suspended Acting Director of N.P.O and suspended Director of N.P.O to properly perform powers and duties to uphold the rule of law and objectivity of the criminal justice system,” a statement from Cabinet said at the time.
“Cabinet acknowledges that the actions of Ms. Lui and Ms. Chang have created unnecessary conflicts between government departments while diminishing public confidence in law enforcement processes and the justice system in Samoa."
“Furthermore, the validity of the establishment of the National Prosecution Office will also be reviewed to ensure the statutory responsibilities and powers are treated with greater transparency, accountability and respect."
“The Tribunal will be appointed on the grounds that Ms. Chang and Ms. Lui have not used the statutory powers given to them in an appropriate manner and they have breached Civil Service Values and Code of Conduct under the Public Service Act 2004, as applied to them under section 15 of the N.P.O Act 2015.”
Last year, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the findings of the Tribunal will play a key role in determining the future of the Office.
Asked if the government would abolish the N.P.O, Tuilaepa told the government-owned Savali Newspaper that the answer is not straightforward.
“It's not as simple as abolishing or not abolishing,” the Prime Minister said. “Cabinet has to review the processes that have lead to the recent clashes between government agencies.”
The government agencies in question include the Office of the Attorney General, the Police and the N.P.O.
“The N.P.O has a clear responsibility to uphold the rule of law and objectivity of the criminal justice system,” Tuilaepa said.
“What we've seen has been the opposite of that. There has been a distinct lack of wisdom in decision-making, stemming from conflicts of interest that have not been handled in the proper manner.”