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A.G. says article contains 'erroneous facts'

The Attorney General Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale has disputed an article published by the Samoa Observer titled “A.G. orders fine backdown”.

The Government’s top legal advisor said in a statement that the article “contains erroneous facts.”

“It is clear that the article refers to a confidential legal advice I had provided to one of the clients of the Office of the Attorney General (namely the Disaster Advisory Committee),” reads Savalenoa’s statement issued last Friday.

“The article in the title and in its content whilst referring to the Attorney General states, ‘she also ordered to reduce the penalty.’

“This line of writing appears to be exaggerating the role of the legal adviser to Government.”

According to the Samoa Observer article, the Attorney General had instructed the interim Chairman of the National Emergency Operations Committee, Agafili Shem Leo to “withdraw” a $26,000 fine imposed on the company Molida Matson Shipping Agency.

“The penalty issued by the Disaster Advisory Committee as [..] letter is incorrect and can be rendered unlawful.

“It should therefore be withdrawn,” Savalenoa wrote in a letter to Agafili, which was obtained by the Samoa Observer.

Savalenoa further advised in her letter that the Disaster Advisory Committee (D.A.C.) does not have the authority to impose penalty fines under the state of emergency. 

“The D.A.C. does not have the authority to impose penalty fines under the S.O.E. The Emergency Order offence notice must be issued by the Ministry of Police to the person who committed the offence which is provided for under the Order 14 of the Emergency Orders instead of D.A.C.

“The correct penalties to impose are $200 each of the sailors that are in breach of the Emergency Orders by not providing a P.C.R. (polymerase chain reaction) test upon arrival and $5,000 tala for the M.M. company by not ensuring the sailors on board MV Olomana had undertaken P.C.R. tests before arrival.”

However in her statement issued last Friday, Savalenoa says the Attorney General does not “order” but “advises” the Government on legal issues to be complied with.

“The legal advice was intended for the Disaster Advisory Committee and is not public information. 

“It is information used to guide the work of D.A.C. and N.E.O.C. to ensure the rule of law is upheld during this time while the Government continues to work towards ensuring Samoa is protected from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I also note that the author of the article has chosen to report the legal advice in bits and pieces, by merging different paragraphs of my advice into one single quote which results in the conveyance and publication of incomplete information.”

Though the Attorney General’s statement does not indicate which specific part of the story is “incomplete information”.

Savalenoa concluded that due to their duty to maintain confidentiality of legal advice issued to their clients they choose not to discuss the matter.

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