Samoa Opposition Questions Wisdom Of Moving Tafa’igata Prison

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PM reportedly wants rapid decision about alternate location

By Ilia L. Likou

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Nov. 18, 2014) – The Opposition leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II, has cautioned Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, over his plan to relocate the Tafaigata Prison.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer yesterday, Palusalue did not oppose the plan but warned the government against rushing it.

"They must thoroughly assess the situation before moving ahead, if it is really necessary," Palusalue said.

"Is it a matter of urgency? Is it necessary? If it is so, why? The government must take a deep look at these issues before this happens.

"Such a decision will cost the country money and we have to bring this into consideration."

Palusalue’s opinion was sought after a plan to relocate the Tafa’igata Prison to Tanumalala or Faleolo was revealed by the Weekend Observer.

The plan is detailed in a letter from Prime Minister Tuilaepa to the Minister of Police and Prisons, Sala Fata Pinati, where he had asked him to submit a proposal to Cabinet for a final decision.

In the letter, Tuilaepa tells the Minister to begin consultations with the Ministry of Finance as well as the relevant officials within the Police and Prisons.

He wants a final decision before China proceeds to build a fence around the current prison.

Dated 6 November 2014, the letter titled "Shift of Prison" also highlights Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s concerns about the current location of the prison.

"It’s too dangerous and inappropriate," Tuilaepa said about the prison’s existence in Tafa’igata.

Palusalue does not dispute Tuilaepa’s concerns about safety. But he has several reservations.

"The issue is that the government will spend a lot of money on the relocation and this will affect us all," Palusalue said. "So such a decision shouldn't be hurried like past developments."

"There are various factors the government must consider first before they come up with a final decision on this issue."

Asked to elaborate, Palusalue said the government’s priority should be to sort out the issues of corruption, abuse of power and mismanagement recently highlighted by a Commission of Inquiry that looked into the prison system – mainly at Taf’aigata.

"The government must work first in managing these ongoing issues," he said.

"These include escaped prisoners, overcrowding, not enough cells for prisoners and others. If these are not addressed, we will face the same old problems, even with a new prison."

The news about the plan has been welcomed by residents around the Tafa’igata Prison. Iona Lauano, a 71-year-old father from Falelauniu, praised Prime Minister Tuilaepa for the plan.

"To be honest with you, it’s the best news I’ve heard," he said. "I see many prisoners walk out every day and I always call the Police."

"As you can see, it’s not safe for us here, especially the young ones. These prisoners are criminals and they are very dangerous to the community."

He is also pleased about plans to attract more business developments to Tafa’igata saying this will create more jobs for people in the area.

But not everyone shares the same optimism about the plan.

Tanugamalala business woman, Fitu Vaisola, said the plan doesn't make sense.

"I bought this freehold land two years ago for my family and when I heard the news, it was quite sad for me," she said.

"My business, my family, my children and everything here – will not be safe if the government shifts the prison here."

"I’ve spent a lot of money for all this stuff to develop my family but now I’m scared. I hope the government doesn't go through with the plan."

Matamua Naugatao Timoteo, of Leulumoega-uta, shares Fitu’s concerns.

"If a prison is built a half a mile away from my home, who would want to stay here?" asked

"I’ve lived here for over forty years. I see that this is one of the fastest growing areas in Samoa and I don't understand the logic of moving the prison here."

"Residents who are living near Tafaigata Prison are the same with as us here, we are human beings too…and we don’t want the prison near us."

According to the Prime Minister, it is not appropriate to have a prison in the midst of a residential area.

The plan, he added, is to distant the main prison from the Apia Township so that risks associated with having such a facility near residential areas are eliminated.

The Prime Minister also wants Tafa’igata to be vacated, providing more land for the Industrial Zone to allow for other commercial developments.

Among the proposed developments are renewable energy projects, tourism developments, schools, factories and others.

Tuilaepa said there is more than enough land space at Tanugamalala to accommodate the country’s main prison.

He also revealed that should the new prison be built, Police officers would no longer be allowed to stay on site. They would have to travel there on a daily basis to avoid problems such as the ones recently identified by the Commission of Inquiry into the Tafa’igata Prison.

When the relocation will take place, Tuilaepa’s letter does not say.

And although Faleolo was given as an option, correspondence obtained by the Samoa Observer shows that Tanugamalala appears to be the preferred location.

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