War of Words between Tuilaepa and Laaulialemalietoa to be Battled Out in Court

0
1596

The war of words between former Samoa Prime Minister and leader of the Human Rights Protection Party, Hon Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi, and Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt, Chair of the ruling Faatuatua i Le Atua Samoa ua Tasi party, will now head to Court.

That is according to both leaders, confirming in public statements that defamation suits under Samoa’s criminal libel laws, are being filed by one against the other.

Speaking to the media during his weekly press conference on Thursday, Tuilaepa said his legal action also includes a complaint against the EFKS TV2 as well the host of the weekly Soalaupule programme, Paialii Levasa Tapuala Oloapu (known as Tapuala).

According to Tuilaepa, his defamation case stems from statements made by FAST party Chair and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt, while being interviewed as a guest of Tapuala on the weekly programme.

Tuilaepa during his weekly press conference.

“I must clear my name, as well as my family and children,” said Tuilaepa, adding that he did not believe Laauli would go ahead with a counter-sue against him.

Laauli’s comments, aired during the 3 February 2023 programme of Soalaupule, alleges Tuilaepa did not take any action following a report by Samoa’s Chief Auditor that led to the resignation of then Finance Minister, Hon Faumuina Liuga.

“He did nothing, not one thing about it.”

Laaulialemalietoa on the EFKS Church TV2.

Faumuina Liuga had announced his resignation from Cabinet during a late night Parliamentary session on 16 April 2014. He had been Finance Minister since 2011.

In May 2013, 19 HRPP MPs signed an open letter calling for his resignation over his alleged mismanagement of the government’s finances, and in August a leaked report from the Chief Auditor cited several financial irregularities at the Samoa Land Corporation between 2006–12, when Mr Faumuina was the minister responsible.

“How many millions of national funds misappropriated, and you did nothing to correct it,” said the FAST party Chair.

“Mafaufau lelei. Fia miliona a le atunuu na lē taupulea, ae leai ma sou faasaosaoga o mea na.”

“There was $600k for an office, there were cars and everything else purchased and almost $5 million spent on a market, with no Cabinet approval.. he did it solely with the Minister of Finance,” said Laaulialemalietoa on national TV.

“That report contains it all, and that is the report that will be brought back up..”

Laaulialemalietoa then also referred to government scholarships, alleging Government Ministers’ children benefited from scholarships which could not be accessed by the rest of country’s children.

Tele oloa paū a Le Well i Savalalo.

“Lifo i sikolasipi, ō ai tou fanau lea na la’u uma i sikolasipi a le Malo, ae valiago le fanau a le atunuu.”

Laauli also alleges the Samoa government footed the cost of medical treatment for children, without Cabinet approval.

“Mama’i tou fanau, toeitiiti miliona tupe na ave ai i le vaalele, e leiloa e le Kapeneta.”

O lea ua toe maua i le SOS le tatou tray lea. Afio mai loa i le SOS, Togafuafua.

According to Laauli, his lawyers have been directed to counter-sue Tuilaepa for unfounded allegations made against a trip he had taken to Fiji, as well as allegations made against Laauli’s District Development Committee head office.

“He had better prepare well, because he will be faced with the sharp end of the law,” said the FAST Chairman.

Samoa is the Home of Taula

However, the former Prime Minister has hit back at the allegations. “I must clear my name especially my children,” he told local media on Thursday.

“Only three of my children accessed scholarships to Fiji,” said Tuilaepa. “They did not achieve the marks to receive a scholarship to New Zealand.”

Meantime the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure Hon Olo Levaopolo Fiti Vaai is also pursuing a defamation lawsuit against Tuilaepa for suggesting that fitting a government vehicle with private plates, was likened to steeling.

Samoa withdrew libel from its criminal code as a media reform initiative in 2013. However, at the end of 2017, Parliament unanimously voted to revive its criminal libel law under section 117(A) of the Crimes Act 2013, despite opposition from media freedom advocates. A person found guilty of violating this law faces a three-month prison term.

In 2019, Malele Paulo aka King Faipopo, was charged with defamation for posting a video in Australia alleging that the then Prime Minister Tuilaepa was involved in a plot relating to the murder of a former Cabinet Minister. He also said Tuilaepa had imported guns and was a thief. Paulo was jailed for seven weeks.