Man cries foul over drug raid

By Nefertiti Matatia and Anina Kazaz ,

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DRUG RAID: Pea Lesatele (in red putting his hands on the Police van) as he was being searched.

DRUG RAID: Pea Lesatele (in red putting his hands on the Police van) as he was being searched. (Photo: Anina Kazaz)

A father of four from Leone has revealed his “embarrassing” experience at the Savalalo Fish Market where the Police allegedly manhandled him while they were searching for drugs.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Pea Lesatele, said the Police must treat people with respect, even if they suspect them of a crime.

During the incident last Friday, more than 20 Police officers surrounded the Fish Market premises.

The roads leading to the Market were even blocked with some Police officers stationed on fishing boats. 

They took two suspects to be inspected and one of them was Mr. Lesatele.

The 37-year-old revealed that they searched him three times and they found nothing.

But it was the manner they had conducted their search publicly, which has upset Mr. Lesatele.

“I don’t know what the Police officers were searching for,” he said. 

“I was shocked when they came to me and told me if I could come but then I had just arrived, I was there to buy fish. So I followed them because I knew that I had nothing to hide.

“They could at least bring their Police dogs to look for what they were looking for. They even went through my bag and pulled my shorts up and everything.

“The unfortunate part of their actions was searching me like that in front of people. I feel very ashamed because of the way they treated me and those who were watching would consider me a thief.

“Everyone was watching and what the officers did was not right.”

Mr. Lesatele said there are many ways that the Police could have solved this matter without violating his rights.

“The right thing that they could have done was to take us down to the Police station instead of doing it in public and to find out there was nothing on me and the other guy,” he said.

“What they did was not right and if I were a Policeman I would not search anybody if I was not certain and without a good cause.

“Even though they would say that they were doing their job but they should also be considerate of the rights of the citizens of this country. We are all protective of our image and our families.

He explained: “If my relatives’ overseas saw what happened today (yesterday) they will not be willing to help me if I ask them for things.

“I would also then be disowned by my own family here because of the way they treated me like a criminal. 

If they are here to look for the drug dealers then go for them and be certain that they find the right person.

“I have children and if my kids were here to witness what happened they would be upset with me.

 “I heard on the television last night that there were burglars who were roaming around this area and I even heard it on the radio. I think that is what the Police are after which is why they falsely suspected that I was one of those people.”

Mr. Lesatele said he is looking at taking his complaint to another level of authority to ensure no one else suffers from what he went through.

Contacted for a comment, Police Superintendent, Auapa'au Logoitino Filipo, defended the actions of the Police.

He said the Police officers were looking for drugs.

Auapa'au says they have found what they were looking for and Mr. Lesatele was reported by the public to be a well-known drug dealer at the flea market.  

Later, the Police issued the following statement about the raid.

It is published below verbatim:

“The Samoa Police Service carried out a raid at the Savalalo Flea market in search of marijuana this morning the 20th of April 2018 (Friday). 

A concerning number of the public have address the issue of marijuana being sold at the flea market and pose a risk to the youth of Samoa. 

A majority of these men are known to police for being dealers and suppliers of marijuana. 

However, due to their histories they have master ways of concealing narcotics from the police and K9 dogs.  

A total of 8 individual were arrested and 6 were charged for possession of narcotics. Police also managed to seize a certain amount of marijuana cigarettes found on these individuals. Please be advised that marijuana is illegal in Samoa. 

We also thank the general public for their patience during today’s raid and if anyone has any concerns with regards to any narcotics matter please contact our Narcotics Division on 22 222 ext 292. Fa’afetai lava and be safe out there Samoa!”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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