Thursday 22 July 2021 Apia Samoa. The Samoa Law Society (SLS) Vice President has responded to comments made by Caretaker Prime Minister Hon Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi, who has called for younger members of the Society to be reprimanded for dishonoring the Head of State by questioning his powers.
During an interview with TV3, Tuilaepa said office bearers of SLS were young and naive faafiapoko and the professional body should call a special meeting where older members should put the younger members (‘au laiki ia) into place.
“O loia uma nei e faavasivasi uma a.. o le faalavelave, e talavou..”
Tuilaepa was referring to the Society’s formal submissions on issues such as the Constitutional powers of the Head of State which came under scrutiny during Court of Appeal proceedings last week.
“E le fesiligia e se isi le Ao o le Malo… ma soona tautala i le mamalu o le Ao o le Malo..”
As Vice President of the self-regulating professional association of lawyers in Samoa, Su’a Hellene led SLS submissions in the most recent Court of Appeal case of Samoa’s political crisis, and SLS had also spoken out on the impacts of three controversial Bills passed into Law last November.
In response to the Prime Minister’s comments, the Vice President takes the high ground and says she will not respond out of respect for Tuilaepa.
“I have a lot of respect for le afioga ia Tuilaepa for the many years of service he has provided Samoa and his leadership in developing our country over the years;
“I also know some of his children, including two of his daughters who are lawyers. They are very humble and respectful, ese le tamalii o ona alo”, says Su’a.
“So even though Tuilaepa’s comments may have been made in relation to my role in representing the Samoa Law Society in these very important Constitutional cases for Samoa, I do not want to respond to them”, said Su’a.
“These comments are obviously made in the context of the current environment and I appreciate he may be still trying to come to terms with the outcome of the elections in April which is not what he had expected..
“The Honourable caretaker Prime Minister may consider me to be a young female “ua so’ona tautala” but I know where I stand. I have been a lawyer for 23 years and a matai for 13 years. I carry these duties seriously and with pride. Ou te malamalama lelei i lo’u fa’asinomaga i totonu o lo’u aiga, i totonu o lo’u nu’u faapea i totonu o le faamasinoga ma e lē paō vale se leo o Su’a”.
During the TV3 program and again on 2AP this afternoon, Tuilaepa called on SLS to reprimand female lawyers whom he says have disrespected the Courts with their dress code, by wearing miniskirts, and appearing before the Judiciary with untidy hair (ulu veuveua).
In response Samoa Law Society Vice President Su’a Hellene Wallwork-Lamb says the honourable caretaker Prime Minister’s comments about young female lawyers are unfortunate and unnecessary.
Regarding professionalism in attire, Su’a says the Samoa Law Society acknowledges the importance of the dress code for all lawyers in Court, but would not want such comments from Tuilaepa to discourage Samoa’s young female lawyers.
“We note this from time to time and I know the Attorney General takes a strong position on this too,” said Su’a Hellene on the dress code.
“The majority of lawyers in Samoa now are females and a lot of them are young;
“From what I have observed, they all carry themselves professionally when they come to Court,” says Su’a.
“We wouldn’t want such comments to discourage our young female lawyers”, added the Vice President.
Outside Court today female lawyers brushed off Tuilaepa’s comments and said they were far too busy with electoral petitions and legal debates in Court on the interpretation of Constitutional articles, to comment.