Samoa AG Won’t Seek Charges Over Leaked Report

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Samoa AG Won’t Seek Charges Over Leaked Report Aumua cites law, but prosecution costs ‘not in public interest’

By Apulu Lance Polu

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Dec. 17, 2013) – The Attorney General is not filing criminal charges against certain media for publishing the Auditor General’s Report before the report was considered and reported on by the Parliamentary Select Committee.

In a press statement today, AG Aumua Ming Leung Wai said one of the factors in his decision not pursue charges is cost and reminded of the purpose why the prohibition of such reports before the Parliamentary Select Committee reports on to Parliament are protected under the Assembly’s Power & Privileges Ordinance 1960.

Speaker La’aulialemalietoa made reference to the issue at the start of parliament business this morning, and later warned the Leader of the Opposition about transgressing such privileges.

The Select Committees Report was tabled this morning but has yet to be discussed by Parliament and is likely to be debated in the upcoming session in January where the Supplementary Estimates 2013/2014 is to be debated and approved.

The AG’s statement in full: "Questions have been raised about whether certain persons will be prosecuted for publishing the Controller and Chief Auditor’s (CCA) report relating to Samoa Land Corporation before it has been considered by Parliament’s Select Committee. Section 25(e) of the Legislative Assembly Powers and Privileges Ordinance 1960 prohibits the publication of reports or evidence presented to committees before the committee reports back to the Assembly. The publication of the CCA’s report allegedly contravenes that provision.

"However, after considering a range of factors, I have decided not to file criminal charges in this case. One of the most important considerations in this case is that as of the 17 December 2013, these materials have become public documents.

"Moreover, the burden placed on the public purse in pursuing such charges given the penalty provided by this Ordinance, no matter how likely conviction would be under the circumstances, is emphatically not in the public interest. It bears mentioning, however, that provisions such as those found in section 25, serve an important public purpose.

"Therefore, the decision in this particular case and under these particular circumstances should not in any way be construed as an invitation to violate the laws of our nation.

"As public servants, we have a solemn responsibility to the people of Samoa to not only execute the duties of office fairly, efficiently and effectively, but also to do so with careful attention to the facts and to the procedures and practices that have long been a part of our democratic form of government. Standards, such as those set forth in Section 25, exist for a reason. They seek to permit the careful, comprehensive and detached consideration of evidence presented to a parliamentary committee so that they can execute the people’s will in a context free of the influence of public passions fed through the premature publication of reports that have not been fully considered by a parliamentary committee.

"The decision not to prosecute in this case was one not made lightly but made within the context of what is best in securing the integrity and effectiveness of our democracy. In short, it was a decision made after carefully weighing all of aspects of the public interest and not one made by making short shrift of the public good.

"Parliament has a privilege to protect the integrity of its proceedings and this must always be weighed against the public interest in having access to public information concerning the good practices of government as well as for identifying those areas where improvement is needed.

"The challenge for all of us engaged in civic life is to do our best to balance these competing interests in securing the public good. I am confident that my decision in this case has done just that," the statement ended.

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