Who is running the Prison? Government or Prisoners?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Something is terribly amiss about the way the Tafa’igata Prison is being managed. We’ve always known there have been a multitude of problems up there, for many years now.

But a couple of incidents last weekend really confirm our suspicion that a lot of the problems we are seeing are the result of a really pathetic system that requires a complete overhaul.  Immediately. 

Folks, the buck stops with senior leaders of the Government. They are after all accountable for the problems up there. No ifs or buts.

Let’s take your mind back a few weeks ago to an incident when a notorious criminal was allowed to take the weekend off so he could be bestowed a chiefly title.

That is just not normal, is it? And yet the Minister of Prisons came out strongly in defense of the decision saying there was nothing wrong with it. 

He argued that the prisoner was a “changed man” and suggested that the Prison officers knew what they were doing.

Well did they know about the law? What about the rule that says that the prisoner should never have been allowed out in the first place? What’s the point of laws if they are openly flouted at the whim of whomever? And who is responsible for these decisions?

Now in an ideal world, we could probably forgive them if things were working well. 

And by that we mean prisoners behaving and staying where they are supposed to, behind bars. 

Unfortunately in Samoa, that is not the case. Far from it. 

Not a week goes by where prisoners don’t run away at will hurting innocent members of the public.

But that’s not all. 

Last Friday while the nation was bracing for Cyclone Gita, the same prisoners had another idea. 

Perhaps as a thank you for all the freedom they have enjoyed in running away at will, they plotted a mass prison break, which the Police thankfully foiled. 

Some 90 officers, who would have helped D.M.O. to prepare people for the cyclone were instead holed up at Tafaigata to avert what could have been a real national disaster.

Days later, Prime Minster Tuilaepa downplayed the incident.

“When a natural disaster is about to strike the country, often criminals find that this is the right time to strike too,” Tuilaepa said. “However the Police have always acted in accordance with keeping the peace and the situation has been sorted.”

Well thank God it had been sorted. But the mere fact they threatened to strike at such a critical time when they knew the country’s attention was on the cyclone is truly disturbing. 

Someone in there knows what they are doing and it’s about time this Government gets serious about dealing with this threat once and for all.

Ironically, during an interview with the Sunday Samoan, Tuilaepa said the threat was “minimal.”

Minimal? Are you serious? How can a mass prison break be a “minimal” threat to the security of this nation? Have we become so used to having prisoners escape that another mass prison break out is regarded as just another day in paradise?

Asked about the possibility of the Prisons being transferred back under the umbrella of the Ministry of Police, Tuilaepa said: “The government’s policies will not change over this. We have to remember that with any changes, there are also teething problems.”

Speaking of those teething problems, how many more years will the people of this nation have to endure the cost and pain of those teething problems when prisoners escape and attack members of the public?

Here’s another disturbing fact. During the Police operation on Friday, Police Superintendent and Media Spokesperson, Auapa’au Logoitino Filipo, confirmed that they found drugs and cash among the prisoners.

Who is running that place? 

The Government or Prisoners? 

Now isn’t it heartbreaking then that while more and more children are becoming caught up in child slavery as a result of desperation, poverty and hardship, the Government is going ahead with a plan to spend $20million on another prison facility where these prisoners are likely to continue their dirty operation of escaping at will and selling drugs? 

It sure pays to be a criminal in this country, doesn’t it? 

Goodness gracious.

Get your act together and fix this mess. Please!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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