On Tuesday afternoon, an email accompanied by an attachment arrived from the Government Press Secretariat. When opened, the imagery was interesting. You couldn’t help but laugh. Really.
You see, it showed an interesting picture of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi wearing sunnies in his office, with two arms raised while he is pointing to the ceiling.
If you were someone who didn’t know Tuilaepa, you could have mistaken him for a slightly bigger, perhaps more grown up version of Kim Jong Un. The picture by the way was accompanied by the headline “P.M. calls out the professionals.”
Now this immediately attracted the wondering mind. What is P.M. Tuilaepa up to this time? And which professionals is he calling out? And what was with the photo?
Well it turns out the legal profession was the target where Tuilaepa made the point that lawyers who are barred from overseas should not be allowed to practice in Samoa. What incurred the wrath of the man was not stated. But he was quite blunt.
“There are lawyers practising in Samoa who have been de-registered overseas and not allowed to practise there as a result of serious offenses and even severe professional misconduct,” he said.
“But the same lawyers are practising in Samoa with total disregard to their past history.”
At this point, the million tala question is, who is the Prime Minister referring to? Samoa is a small place and while we have many lawyers, it is unfair on the legal profession for the Prime Minister to make such a generalized statement. Which means he should just tell us whom he is talking about and end all doubt.
That’s what a brave leader will do, especially if he knows he has got a valid point. In any case, the Prime Minister wasn’t done.
“Ironically, according to my information, the same lawyers have made it a habit to mislead members of the public to sue the government with full knowledge that it’s a lost cause. And in the end, the lawyers walk away as winners pocketing thousands of tala in legal fees,” he said.
“But here is the catch and even more disturbing is the fact that it’s your taxes paying for their legal fees because in many cases, the legal aid assistance funded by government is paying for attorney fees to represent clients who cannot afford legal services and representation.”
“Now I ask the Samoa Law Society if there is any justice in that. What happened to integrity and honesty. And at the same time, I challenge the Society to do what is right and lawful.”
Since the email from the Government Press Secretariat arrived, it has not been possible to get a comment from the Samoa Law Society. We would dearly love to hear from them. These are very serious allegations being made by the Prime Minister and he has even gone as far as to challenge the Law Society to look into them.
But he didn’t stop there of course. He then had a go at other professions, including accountants and doctors.
Said Tuilaepa: “Taking affirmative action now will ensure their accountability and will reaffirm their trustworthiness. Failure to do so may compromise the public’s trust.”
Now that’s a bit rich coming from the leader of this Government. If he’s going to start pointing to individual professions and members of the community, someone should remind him he has eight other fingers pointing back at him and his administration.
What about politicians who are convicted of serious crimes – in Samoa and overseas - and yet they just sweet talk their way into the law making chamber of this country? How many Members of Parliament have been charged and convicted of serious offenses and yet they are allowed to sit in Parliament as if that is normal? And what about instances of corruption and abuse of power identified time and time again by the Chief Auditor and the Audit Office which this Government has refused to do something about?
Why can’t this Government deal with collusion, the countless cases of conflict of interest involving Cabinet Ministers and their businesses and many other instances of wrong doing before they start pointing the finger.
The point is that leaders should lead by example.
If Prime Minister Tuilaepa really feels strongly about the lawyer or lawyers he knows should not be practicing in Samoa, he should be brave enough to tell us who. Let’s not victimise an honourable profession simply to score a few points in a political game no one really has the time for.
What do you think?
Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!