Samoa Opposition Wants Ministers Stood Down Amidst Probe

admin's picture

Call comes after police standards unit order to handle investigation

By Sophie Budvietas and Lanuola Tupufia

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Oct. 30, 2013) – The leader of Samoa’s Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II has called for Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo and Associate Minister Muagututagata Peter Ah Him to step down while a Police investigation into their conduct is under way.

The call was made yesterday as details emerged about a "direct order" for the Police Professional Standards Unit (PPSU) to handle the investigation.

Police Spokesperson, Fauono Talalelei Tapu declined to reveal who gave the "direct order." He also refused to confirm whether the "direct order" is to investigate the Police officers or the Cabinet Ministers.

"All I know is that Professional Standards is dealing with it now," he said. "It’s being dealt with by Afamasaga" referring to Acting Commissioner, Afamasaga Michael So’onalole.

"It’s hard for me to comment at the moment because I was away when it all happened."

Afamasaga and Fauono have referred comment to each other repeatedly since the incident was exposed, both claiming not to know significant details.

Fauono was asked yesterday about the background of the unit that dealt with complaints from the public, whether someone filed a complaint against the officers that were involved and whether they did anything wrong.

"It’s not really that," he said, "all I know is it was a direct order for Professional Standards to deal with it."

The involvement of the PPSU has reportedly outraged some officers and alarmed the Opposition party.

According to Palusalue, the Cabinet Ministers should be made to step down for now.

"We feel that he should be stood down while the investigation is going on," Palusalue said about Fonotoe.

Fonotoe has been accused of interfering with the work of the police during an incident where Muagututagata was stopped and tested for drunk driving.

A Police report leaked to the media alleged that Fonotoe urged Associate Minister Muagututagata to drive off from the stop attended by five officers.

The report also alleged that Muagututagata failed to blow hard enough to give a proper breath test.

Palusalue said the Deputy Prime Minister should follow the recent example of a New Zealand Minister and stand down to ensure any investigation was independent.

"Like John Banks in New Zealand – where he stood down while the investigation went on with the donation from Kim Dotcom.

"And during the time of the investigation he should be stood down while the investigation is carried on.

"Some people say it is a small thing but nobody is above the law.

"The Deputy Prime Minister is stil there, he can influence the outcome of this investigation."

Palusalue said under the Komesina o Sulufaiga (Ombudsman) Act 1988 the Ombudsman could investigate this matter.

Under the Act, the Ombudsman must "faithfully and impartially" perform their duties.

According to the legislation, principal functions of the Ombudsman shall be to investigate any decision or recommendation made or any act done or omitted, relating to a matter of administration and affecting any person or body of persons in his or her or its personal capacity.

But Palusalue said that with the Deputy Prime Minister still in his office, they might try to get involved or block the investigation.

"I believe it should be done…by the Ombudsman if they are able to come in and do it," he said. "As long as the Deputy Prime Minister is in office he might interfere with the investigation.

"But if you get an independent person like the Ombudsman, then I am sure no one will query the investigation."

He said with the DPM still in office, a cloud of doubt would remain over the police investigation because Fonotoe still had use of his powers and Parliamentary privilege.

Palusalue said the Tautua based their position on the police report that was leaked to the Sunday Samoan.

"Well, I must acknowledge that the report came out of the Observer, the police report," he said. "The last part of this report – I feel sorry for the policeman.

"The last part where he mentioned when he saw that they left with their smiling faces and then he stood there thinking ‘why am I a police officer’?

Palusalue noted that the Prime Minister has refused to take action against his deputy.

"As the Prime Minister mentioned it is up to the person whether it is time for him to resign, not for the Prime Minister telling him to resign.

"So that is our position."

Fonotoe has denied allegations of interrupting police on that night.

In an earlier statement, he said that, "For your information, I was on my way home after a family dinner in town, when I saw the Associate Minister’s vehicle parked on the side of beach road in front of the former Agriculture Store Corporation with the Police pick up with lights on right behind it," Fonotoe wrote.

"I stopped to see whether it was an accident.

At that time, testing of the Associate Minister with the breathalyzer machine was in progress… I counted 3 times the test was administered and the Associate Minister was then let go."

This directly contradicts the official police report which states that there was "insufficient volume" of air detected by the breath test machine to register a proper result.

Muagututagata has also denied the allegations.

"I had co-operated fully with Police without any resistance or objections," he earlier wrote to the Samoa Observer.

"The Deputy Prime Minister by coincidence had turned up, to my surprise that evening and had observed Police carrying out their duties."

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment