What happens when “Ole Palemia” is found? Will he be thrown in the dungeon as they did in the U.K. some 700 years ago?

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

And so finally, it looks as if Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has had enough of the “Online Hacker” who’s been gleefully calling himself, “Ole Palemia”. 

Indeed, it looks as if he’s made up his mind that “Ole Palemia” would be tracked down, and then when he’s found he would be severely punished, and be shown who exactly is the boss here.

Over recent weeks, “Ole Palemia” has been sending out messages on the Internet where he’s been accusing the government of the Human Rights Protection Party, and Prime Minister Tuilaepa in paricular, of being corrupt.

Indeed, he’s even gone ahead and accused the government of being seriously lacking in transparency and accountability, so that in his view he said an investigation was dearly warranted.

And then as if that was not harsh enough, he went on and accused Tuilaepa of running the government as if it was a “dictatorship,” which - whether he was aware or not - was the one criticism that Tuilaepa would have found impossible to tolerate.

Indeed, it was just what Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, hated to hear.

So that right away, not only did Tuilaepa reject the “dictatorship” comparison, he went ahead and announced that the Law of Criminal Libel that his government had abolished in 2013, would be revived.

In any case, that was apparently how sick in the stomach he was about being told that his pride and joy, the government of the Human Rights Protection Party, was being run like as dictatorship. 

Clearly he did not accept that.

Neither did he accept the claim that “part of the reason the Law of Criminal Libel is being revised today, is to restrict freedom of speech” in Samoa. 

No! No! 

What he accepts is that, freedom of speech will never be restricted while the government of which he is the Prime Minister, is in control.   

In hind-sight though, Tuilaepa said he regretted the decision to remove Criminal Libel from the law books, in the first place.

He also said: “I should’ve never abolished this law which caters to protect victims of defamation.”

However, he said, he accepts that he has critics who have called him a “dictator.” 

 He also said: “There have been writings that accuse me of being a dictator (in relation to the law of Criminal Libel), and yet it is not my law.”

So whose law is it?

Well, all we know is that Criminal Libel is an old British law. 

Back on 25 October 2009, the British newspaper, The Guardian, in a story titled “Campaigners claim victory for freedom of speech”, said: “Freedom of speech campaigners are claiming victory as the House of Lords is expected to back changes removing “anachronistic” laws which have criminalized libel for more than 700 years.”

It also said: “The changes, which will be debated as part of the controversial coroners and justice bill, repeal laws dating back to 1275 and allow ‘extremely serious’ libel and sedition to be prosecuted in criminal courts.” 

“The laws have long been regarded as an impediment to freedom of speech and an anomaly in the UK, which has encouraged countries with repressive regimes not to conduct prosecutions for libel.”

“The abolition of sedition is long overdue,” said Geoffrey Robertson QC, who successfully defended Salman Rushdie in the last sedition case held in Britain, over Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses. 

“This law is still used throughout the Commonwealth by repressive governments to jail their opponents. Its abolition here ensures that those governments can no longer use the excuse that they are merely following British law.”

Agnes Callamard, executive director of campaign group Article 19, said: “This will send a very strong and clear signal globally that democracies do not have criminal defamation laws.” 

The government’s admission that the law, which has been widely recognized as hampering freedom of press and political dissent, must change comes after increasing concern about clampdowns in other countries, including many states in Europe and the Commonwealth.

“These common law offenses are anachronistic and their continuing existence, albeit seldom used, has been cited by other countries as justification for the retention of similar laws, which have been actively used to restrict media freedom,” a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said.

“The UK is committed to encouraging other countries to recognize and respect freedom of expression, and the media must take the lead in abolishing these out-of-date offenses.”

Now that was the British Law of Criminal Libel in Great Britain in those days; it was, without a doubt, the enemy of freedom of speech, political dissent, and yes, free thought. 

And yet, sometime in the last decade, it turned up in Samoa. 

Later still, when Prime Minister Toflau Eti Alesana, passed away on 12 August 1999, it was abolished. 

And today, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has revealed that  the Law of Criminal Libel is being revived. 

But why?

Well, according to him, so that it can be used to track down “Ole Palemia”, as well as those “(writers) who are in favor of those doing the damage.”

He added: “What about those who are victims of defamation?”

“This is a Christian move to protect the victims who are being defamed.” 

“Indeed, this law is designed as a refuge to people whose names and reputations have been ruined.”

He added: “This law will target those who defame individuals and tarnish their good names. This is their safe haven.”

Tuilaepa then said: “In the small time the said law was abolished, defamation has increased significantly here in Samoa.” 

“When it was my time,” he said, “maybe I was a bit too kind. With confidence that those who defamed others were no longer in existence, that is why I abolished that law.”

“But now I know. The previous Members of Parliament knew what they were doing.”

It’s understood that the Attorney General’s Office has been tasked with the job of reintroducing the Criminal Libel law, which main task is to “address the growing number of ‘ghost writers’ who use fake social media pages to attack members of the public.”  

One such page is known as “Ole Palemia”. 

It is also understood that “the Police had launched an investigation to find out who is responsible for that ‘page’ but then up until now, they have not been successful; all they know is that there are other pages.”   

“And yet the government has had enough,” a government statement said.

“The intention is not only to protect the privacy of individuals and the general public from unsubstantiated, vicious and inciting allegations posted by ‘ghost writers’ on the social media, but to also safeguard and ensure that peace and harmony in the country remain intact.”

The statement quoted Prime Minister Tuilaepa as saying that since the Criminal Libel law was abolished (from the Crimes Act of 2013), “some have abused the freedom to express their views, in particular the defamatory allegations posted on social media.”

“Some of these postings could lead to violent confrontation which may eventually cause misery to families and government will not stand by any longer,” Tuilaepa said.

Subject to approval by Parliament, the Prime Minister says the new act will ensure that the ghost writers will be brought to justice to answer to their writings. 

And they could be liable to be prosecuted with offenses that will include imprisonment.

“The H.R.P.P. caucus is in full support,” Tuilaepa said.

“There are 4,500 hackers in Samoa. Some are children and even lawyers are among the best hackers in the country.”

 “And to find the writers hiding behind anonymity by using their freedom of expression to vent their vile and demeaning allegations on social media will no longer be tolerated.  They should be warned now that their days of mischiefs are numbered.”

The ‘hackers’, added Prime Minister Tuilaepa, will be used by the government to track down the ‘ghost writers’. 

Now how are they going to do this anyway? 

What happens if the “hackers” refuse to be used by the government to track down the “ghost writers?”

It’s understood though that the proposed Act will be tabled in Parliament on Monday.

Incidentally, what is Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malilelegaoi going to do to “Ole Palemia” and the “hackers” when they are found? 

Is he going to throw them in the dungeons as they did in the United Kingdom more than 700 years ago?

It would be interesting  to know.

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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