Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, is absolutely correct.
On Tuesday last week, he commended the outcome of a Cabinet-appointed Commission of Inquiry tasked to investigate the conduct of two senior Police officers with a very firm message to members of the public.
“The results of this open and public Commission of Inquiry, is a clear endorsement on the Cabinet decision to affect the suspensions and start this Commission,” A.G. Lemalu said. “Where fundamental matters which are the key to the administration of justice are affected such as the alleged interference with witnesses in criminal proceedings, there must be proper action in response from government as to accountability.”
We couldn’t agree more. The Police after all play such a vital role in maintaining law and order with the overall goal being to achieve truth and justice. The idea then that they could abuse their positions in an attempt to defeat the natural course of justice is deplorable and completely unacceptable.
Which is precisely what the Inquiry found. Chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice, Lesatele Rapi Vaai, the Inquiry focused on the conduct of suspended Police Commissioner Samoa Mulinuu in handling of the criminal matter against Sililoto Peneueta. His involvement in alleged tampering with witnesses in the case of Mauga Precious Chang was also investigated.
The second officer investigated was former Inspector Luatimu Samau. He was also accused of alleged witness tampering and breaching the Police Code of Conduct.
According to a copy of the Inquiry report, the Commission is emphatic that there was “corrupt motive” in their conduct and as a result, it did not hesitate to recommend to Cabinet to terminate their services.
About Samau, the report reads: “We are satisfied that he had involved himself in the investigation with a corrupt motive; he blatantly ignored the code of conduct issued by the Commissioner pursuant to section 11 Police Service Act 2009; and he is also guilty of misconduct pursuant to section 50 of the same Act.”
“His impugned conduct viewed as a whole falls far below the standard that a reasonable member of the Samoan community is entitled to expect from him.”
As for Samoa Mulinu’u, the Commission said: “The Commission is of the view after considering the circumstances involving the Sililoto matter and the Police v Mauga Chang matter, that the services of the Assistant Commissioner should be terminated.”
“The two incidents involved members of the community, one was a police witness, the other was a target of an unfounded complaint.”
“An element of corruption played a role in his conduct. He ignored the oath he took when he was sworn in as a police officer, and he also breached the Police Code of Conduct.”
“His explanation that his conflict of interest did not influence the integrity of the investigation cannot be accepted. His oath and the Police Code of Conduct required him to disassociate himself with the investigation of the Sililoto matter; he had no choice. It also required him not to interfere in the Police v Mauga Chang matter.”
These are two very serious matters. What’s important here is that the government through the Commission has sent out a clear warning that such behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Now according to Lemalu, the Inquiry’s findings reaffirms that due diligence coupled with transparency and accountability is very much alive in Samoa.
But the government is not stopping there.
From what we’ve been told, changes will now be implemented on how government will deal with serious allegations of breach of duties by police officers.
“From past experiences, government has noticed the blatant ignorance by certain senior police officers taking for granted the due diligence process put in place to recognize and respect their rights by calling Commission of Inquiries to investigate the shortcomings within our Police Force,” Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also the Minister of Police, said.
“And after a number of Commission of Inquiries, Cabinet had hoped it would have identified and address discrepancies within the police force but this apparently has not been the case.
“To that extend, a new procedure approved by Cabinet is now in place on how government will deal with serious breaches of conduct and behavior within our police ranks.”
The new procedure will apparently see the Minister of Police acting on a complaint, and decides if a breach of specific duties is warranted. If so, the Minister must then give the person alleged to have committed the breach the opportunity to present his or her side by submitting written submission in response to the allegations.
Once that is completed, the Cabinet can, without the need for a full commission of inquiry, make a decision as to a suspension and or dismissal.
“The second option will not only save costs but is more effective and efficient and at the same time, protects the interest of government and the accused,” Prime Minister Tuilaepa said.
This is strongly supported by the Attorney General.
“The new option will retain the ability to launch these types of Inquiries in the future and it has also now given a second option to government.”
“This is understood to be motivated by the fact there have been several costly consecutive Commissions now with what can be perceived as a subsequent lack of deterrence from ongoing breaches of duty, and no actual institutional change.”
Well this is good news. It’s great that the government is being proactive to stop wrongdoing in the police force. They deserve credit.
But they should also look at putting in place a similar procedure to address corruption and collusion in other government bodies, which have been clearly identified and exposed in the past.
The officers which were subject of the recent Inquiry have clearly been made as examples. But we all know there is a lot more to be done to fully clean out the corruption we know exists in the government.
So let’s not stop with the Police. The Attorney General and P.M. Tuilaepa obviously have a lot more to do. Let’s wait and see!
Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!