Samoa PM: Government Won’t Interfere In Investigation Of Deputy

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Deputy PM accused of obstructing justice during traffic stop

By Jasmine Netzler

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Oct. 27, 2013) – Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has promised that his Government will not interfere with the Police investigation into claims of obstructing police work.

The alleged incident involves deputy Prime Minister, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo and Associate Minister, Muagututagata Peter Ah Him.

During a press conference last week, the Prime Minister said the Government cannot make a decision until the investigation is completed.

Tuilaepa declined to say what action the Government might take if the investigation finds that Fonotoe attempted to obstruct police from breath-testing Muagututagata.

An official police report leaked and published by the Samoa Observer said that Muagututagata was stopped after making an illegal u-turn in Apia, and then breath tested.

The report said he failed to properly take the breath test because, after the third attempt, the machine gave a warning that there was "insufficient volume" of air to enable a clear reading.

Police officers at the traffic stop said that Fonotoe arrived at the scene and urged Muagututagata to drive off – which he did.

Both men have denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the breath tests were "negative."

But neither man has mentioned the official police report.

Asked for a comment, Prime Minister Tuilaepa acknowledged that the issue was controversial.

"In this country, no one is easily satisfied," he said. "All they want is for blood to spill but for any big decision, there are proper channels to be taken."

The Prime Minister rejected any suggestion of political interference or a cover up, saying history shows the Police have taken action against Cabinet Ministers before.

Tuilaepa told journalists to think back to 1982 and 1999. He reminded that a Cabinet Minister was sent to Tafa’igata Prison and the Government did not interfere with the judiciary system.

He did not mention the name of the Minister.

But at the time, two Cabinet Ministers, the late Toi Aukuso and Leafa Vitale were jailed over the death of another Cabinet Minister in Tuilaepa’s HRPP party.

The Prime Minister said the media should allow justice to take its course, reminding that in the eyes of the law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"I have spoken with the Police," he said.

"They said that the investigation is continuing."

Meanwhile, Tuilaepa said the Police should be acknowledged for doing their job. He added that the Government must also be thanked for not interfering with the work of the Police.

As for the deputy Prime Minister’s involvement, Tuilaepa said he was a senior Member of Parliament who understands the law very well.

He reminded that no one is above the law - not even Fonotoe.

"Just because we pass the laws doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply to us," Tuilaepa said, adding that Members of Parliament should lead by example in being obedient to the law.

Lastly, the Prime Minister said his Cabinet Ministers are men of wisdom and if any one breaks the law, they have the "wisdom to do what should be done without me having to tell them."

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