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Ailing former cabinet minister Vitale freed

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia and Marieta Heidi Ilalio APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, June 30, 2010) - Parole has been granted for disgraced former Cabinet Minister Le΄afa Vitale.

The decision was reached by the Parole Board yesterday afternoon following a lengthy consultation.

The board consists of the Chairman, Chief Justice Patu Tiava΄asu΄e Falefatu Sapolu, Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice, Masinalupe Tusipa Masinalupe Commissioner of Police, Lilomaiava Fou Taioalo, a doctor and a representative for women.

Repeated attempts to contact Parole Board members were unsuccessful. But a source told the Samoa Observer Le΄afa’s application was strongly supported by medical reports.

Yesterday, a top doctor broke his silence about Le΄afa’s deteriorating health.

While his health has improved somewhat during the past few days, Lemalu Dr. Limbo Fiu said when Le΄afa was brought from Tafa΄igata Prison last week, his condition was extremely worrying.

"He couldn’t eat when he came," said Lemalu, Head of Clinical Services at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital (TTMH).

"He wasn’t able to turn from side to side while sleeping. His condition was bad."

Aged 69, Le΄afa has served 10 years for the murder of former Minister of Works, Luagalau Levaula Kamu.

Leafa’s son, Eletise, shot Luagalau upon instructions from his father and another former Cabinet Minister, the late Toi Aukuso, during the Human Rights Protection Party’s (HRPP) birthday celebration at Alafua.

Lemalu said Le΄afa was a sick man. He could barely eat.

The doctor declined to discuss his medical condition except to say he was recovering and doing much better.

"He’s able to eat and drink, he’s picking up his appetite," said Lemalu.

"With the assistance from a family member, Le΄afa is now able to sit up in bed.”

Lemalu said Le΄afa’s medical report was given to the Parole board detailing his condition.

The doctor declined to comment on whether Le΄afa should be given parole.

"We don’t recommend anything, we treat the patients," he said.

Le΄afa was taken to the hospital for an infection in his leg. He has arthritis, diabetes and is using a wheelchair.

Lemalu said the infection must have been from when he was in prison.

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