AG Lawyers ‘Assist’ Probe Into Samoa Police Suspensions

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AG Lawyers ‘Assist’ Probe Into Samoa Police Suspensions Top officers suspended to ensure no influence on investigation

By Lanuola Tupufia

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Sept. 1, 2013) – Two lawyers from the office of Samoa’s Attorney General are to "assist" the Commission of Inquiry investigate allegations against the suspended Police Commissioner and an assistant Police Commissioner.

This was confirmed by Attorney General, Aumua Ming Leung in an interview with the Sunday Samoan on Friday.

"Two lawyers from my office are assistant counsels for the commission," he said.

The Attorney General pointed out that the "allegations are being thoroughly investigated by the Commission of Inquiry."

Their involvement follows a statement from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi on Tuesday that the suspension of the top cops was to ensure that they would not influence the outcome of the investigation.

The inquiry is being led by Ombudsman, Maiava Iulai Toma.

Under the 1988 Act and later amendments, the Attorney General retains significant powers over investigations by the Ombudsman.

Under clause 17 the Attorney General may certify that "Disclosure of certain matters [are] not to be required."

Clause 17 subsection (c) provides that disclosure may be stopped where it "might involve the disclosure of proceedings of Cabinet, or of any committee of Cabinet, relating to matters of a secret or confidential nature, and would be injurious to the public interest, – the Komesina o Sulufaiga (Ombudsman) shall not require the information or answer to be given or, as the case may be, the document or paper or thing to be produced."

Clause 23 empowers the Ombudsman to enter any government premises at any time, but only if he gives notice.

Clause 23 subsection 2 however requires that the Ombudsman give advance notice to heads of department.

Clause 3 of the same section also gives the Attorney General power to "exclude" any premises "if the Attorney-General is satisfied that the exercise of the power conferred by this section might prejudice the security, defence, or international relations of Samoa, including Samoa’s relations with the Government of any other country or with any international organisation."

Involvement of the office of the Attorney General is the latest twist in the already long-running allegations surrounding senior police.

The suspension of Assistant Commissioner Sala Seaga Uili is in relation to what has become known as the "ghost letter."

Sala was suspended with pay together with Police Commissioner, Lilomaiava Fou Taioalo last week.

"Part of the suspension for the Assistant Commissioner is in relation to allegations in the letter," said Aumua.

He declined to comment whether Lilomaiava’s suspension was in relation to the same letter.

"Ask the Prime Minister about that," said Aumua.

While Aumua did not use the word ‘ghost’, that term has taken on a life of its own after being coined by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in 2011.

That letter was not signed by anyone.

It alleged widespread corruption within the police force – especially among police staff at Tafa’igata prison.

Tuilaepa told a weekly programme on Radio 2AP that the probe will "reveal whether allegations are true or not."

"That is why they are suspended with pay and are still using vehicles because it is the usual practice."

However, the Prime Minister did not specify whether the Commissioner’s suspension was in relation to the ghost letter.

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