Samoa MP: Changing Job Description Of Police Commissioner ‘Illegal’

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Public Service Commission denies any effort to change requirements

By Lanuola Tupufia

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, March 10, 2015) – Member of Parliament and the Whip of the Tautua Samoa Party, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, has warned the Public Service Commission (P.S.C) as the search for a Police Commissioner continues.

Contrary to reports that an attempt is being made to change the job description, Leala yesterday cautioned that such a move would be unlawful.

"No one is above the law," Lealailepule told the Samoa Observer. "We have a legislation that spells out the key requirements for the position.

"It would be illegal therefore to ignore the requirements that are inked in the Police Act."

Section 13 of the Police Service Amendment Act 2013 identifies that a person eligible to be appointed as the Commissioner must:

"(a) is at the time of application a member of the service "(b) has been a member of the Service or a police service in another country, for a period of at least 10 years."

The warning from Lealailepule follows a claim that the Public Service Commission is planning to change the job description to allow candidates without any police experience to apply.

An attempt to contact the Chairman of P.S.C., Tu’u’u Dr. Ieti Taulealo, for a comment yesterday was unsuccessful.

"Tu’u’u is conducting interviews (for Police Commissioner) from today until Wednesday," his secretary said.

The P.S.C. C.E.O., Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa has not responded to an email in which questions were put to her about the claim. During the weekend, however, an A.C.E.O. from the Commission denied the claim.

"It’s not true," said the A.C.E.O. "A job description cannot be changed after it has been advertised. So it’s not true."

But that’s the case, according to the M.P. for Faleata West. Lealailepule claimed that "there is a Cabinet paper being circulated in the Ministry of Police" to push for the change.

The Member of Parliament said this is wrong.

"The position is the top law enforcer in the country and that being said, the appointment should be legal and in accordance to the law," he said.

"It’s not right to make sudden changes. The amendment was made in 2013 and had just been implemented so why change it again?"

The Opposition M.P. said it is critical for the head of the Ministry of Police in Samoa to have had previous experience in policing.

A former Assistant Police Commissioner and the Tautua Samoa’s Shadow Minister for Police, Papali’i Li’o Masipau, supported Leala.

Papali’i explained that there are certain ranks that a Police officer must go through before he or she can become a Commissioner.

"There is a big difference between a sworn in officer and a non-sworn in one," said Papali’i. "For a sworn in officer, you would start from being a cadet and climb the ladder through the different ranks.

"For those officers some have experience of more than 30 years and have gone to police academy (overseas) and other trainings."

The Police Shadow Minister stressed that "a non-sworn in officer would not have that kind of knowledge and experience in different operations within the Police force.

"They would not know what to do when a plane crashes and that is because they do not have that knowledge and experience that a sworn in officer has."

In reference to the Police Act, Papali’i who is also a lawyer by profession, said the Police Act should be interpreted by the Court, not anyone else.

"If those that are pushing for the change feel that the law is incorrect, the Court is the only institution that interprets any law," said Papali’i. "This means if they feel the law is incorrect, they are saying those that made the law and passed it are also wrong."

The point is strongly supported by Lealailepule who criticised government officials. He accused the P.S.C. for talking about transparency and accountability yet "laws on appointment for top positions are not being followed.

"This reflects badly on the government," Lealailepule said.

"Why have laws when we don’t abide by them? Those officials in positions of power are making recommendations which push the government to make the wrong decisions when their duty is to advise and protect the integrity of the government. They should do the right thing."

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