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Samoa gov’t agencies dispute use of independent prosecutor

Apia, SAMOA — Samoa’s Attorney General's Office has defended their move to hire independent prosecutors in the criminal matters filed separately against Samoa’s Police Commissioner Fuiavailili Egon Keil and Director of the National Prosecution Office (NPO) Mauga Precious Chang.

 Fuiavailili is facing charges of providing a false report, perjury, unlawful detaining and misconduct in a public place, in connection with the arrest of a former police officer Suitupe Misa, at the Fugalei market last year, where officers were armed while making the arrest. Mauga is charged with negligent driving causing injury and dangerous driving.

The government officials have been suspended with pay for an initial period of three months, while the matters are before the Supreme Court. The public regarding the engagement of independent prosecutors issued the statement following concerns.

According to the AG’s office, “the public interest dictates that where the heads of government departments that are to undertake law enforcement in Samoa, are involved in cases particularly where charges were brought by the two departments against each other, all steps must be taken in transparency and good governance to ensure that justice is not just done but is also seen to be done.”

Last week, the Commissioner’s case was called before the Supreme Court where the court heard that the defendant was not served with any form of official charges. Attorney for Commissioner, Counsel Komisi Koria, expressed his disappointment with the NPO’s office for not handing down documents in relation to the NPO’s case against the Commissioner. Due to the lack of documents, the Commissioner did not enter a plea when he made his initial court appearance. Supreme Court Chief Justice Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu following a request by Komisi to await documents from the NPO postponed the matter.

According to the statement issued by the AG’s office Monday afternoon, an arrangement was previously reached between the Minister of NPO with the heads of the relevant departments that the file related to the charges against the suspended police Commissioner was to be subject to an independent prosecutor being engaged on the advice of the Attorney General’s Office.

The Acting Director of NPO has subsequently stated that this arrangement will not be followed. According to the AG’s office they have updated instructions in response to that position and it’s been agreed upon by the Minister of NPO and Acting Prime Minister Fiame Mataafa Faumuina that it is not appropriate for the NPO to prosecute this matter. “The investigation that led to the charges against the Commissioner were said to have been undertaken by the NPO without proper notice or authorization of the police. This was confirmed by the Acting Commissioner of police. (Samoa News notes that it’s unclear which Acting Commissioner as there have been three Acting Commissioners since the Police Commissioner’s suspension last month.)

Therefore, given the surrounding matters related to these charges, a party other than the NPO should take charge of that particular file. Further as there is an independent prosecutor undertaking the matter against the suspended Director of NPO, fairness dictates that the same should apply to the other matter.” The AG’s office quoted the National Prosecution Act, which states that any prosecution of a matter must be done in a fair, independent and objective manner.

“The right hand of law enforcement cannot be seen to be prosecuting its left without those requirements being followed. The position of the Attorney General’s office and government therefore, is that both these matters should be given to persons outside of the government agencies directly involved. There is otherwise no wish to be involved in any of the criminal proceedings themselves, only to ensure that they are conducted on the basis of fairness and objectivity.