Attorney General report picks "most controversial case"

The Attorney General’s Office 2018-2019 Annual Report has pointed to a lawsuit against the Police Ministry over the arrest of a man by armed police as its “most controversial case.”

The case that the Attorney General’s Office made reference to was filed by a Suitupe Misa and is connected to a 2015 incident when he was arrested in public by a contingent of armed police officers.

As the plaintiff in the court proceedings, Misa sued the then Police Minister, Sala Fata Pinati and current Police Commissioner, Police Commissioner Fuiavaili'ili Egon Keil and sought $1 million in damages.

However, the parties agreed to settle out of court with the Government agreeing to pay an unspecified amount of compensation to the plaintiff.

According to the Annual Report, the case was controversial as it involved two Cabinet Ministers and the Police Commissioner at that time as witnesses. 

“Our office in its review of this matter also noted the fact that this matter if proceeded to a hearing would have attracted bad publicity against the Ministry and also the Government,” stated the annual report. 

“Our office through the litigation and opinions division considering the matters noted above managed to settle this matter.” 

In 2018, the Court proceeding on this matter went before the Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson with Misa represented by Seuamuli Sarona Ponifasio with Sefo Ainu’u acting for the Attorney General’s Office. 

On the second day of the hearing, the Court was informed that the respondents were awaiting instructions from the Attorney General’s Office, specifically from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, who was also the Minister of Police at the time. 

The matter was later rescheduled with the counsels advising the presiding Judge that the matter had been settled between the parties and the Attorney General’s Office is now awaiting Cabinet approval on the amount of settlement. 

During the hearing two years ago Misa was the first witness to take the stand, with Ainu’u asking him about information from Fuiavaili'ili, which alleged that a person by the name of “Suitupe” made death threats to the then Minister of Police, Commissioner of Police and other Government officials. 

The allegations became the grounds for the Police to commence its investigations. 

But Misa, in response, said the Police should have investigated the matter properly before taking any action.  

“But that is not what they did, what they did to me, I don’t know how to explain what they did and how they did it and the way it was carried out was just not right—they should have investigated properly before taking any action,” he said at that time.

The National Human Rights Institution or the Office of the Ombudsman also investigated the matter, after a complaint was filed by Suitupe Misa, over the incident at the Fugalei market on August 18, 2015.

In the Office of the Ombudsman report, Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma criticised the behaviour of the Police including the Police Commissioner, describing their actions directed at Misa as “irresponsible, unlawful and cruel.”

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