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Police respond to criticisms over Police protection for Tuilaepa

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 27 JANUARY 2023:  There have been a lot of public criticisms against the Police Commissioner, Auapaau Logoitino Filipo’s decision to provide Close Body Protection (CBP) to suspended Opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

The public criticism generally believe it was an “unfair call” especially that Tuilaepa is suspended which means his privileges as a Member of Parliament have also been suspended.

The criticisms also point out that the Prime Minister; Fiame Naomi Mataafa is currently in New Zealand without a police escort. The Deputy Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and all MPs with full parliamentary privileges are walking around with no escorts, yet a suspended MP has one.

In an exclusive interview with Talamua, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Papali’i Monalisa Keti, said Tuilaepa is a former Prime Minister who was attacked by two women two weeks ago.

Papalii said she was aware that people, especially those residing abroad still have grievances and other emotions against Tuilaepa, and with the opening of the borders anything could happen.

“We cannot predict people’s actions but we must ensure we do our part when a request is submitted,” she said.

Tuilaepa requested a police escort for himself after she was slapped by a woman outside Court two weeks ago. Papalii explained that it was on the Commissioner Auapaau’s discretion, who agreed to provide police protection for Tuilaepa.

“The escort for Tuilaepa is on strict conditions and will only be there for 3 months and will work from 9.00am to 5.00pm,” said Papalii.

Providing protection for the public is not new
Papalii also clarified that it is the police duty to provide protection to whoever asked for it but that is subject to an assessment of the request.

“Whether it’s anyone of the public, or someone with a high rank in the Government or MP, the same process applies but we base the decision on the circumstances of the request,” said Papalii.

She said this was not the first time police had responded and provided protection to anyone.

During the Leafa Vitale and Toi Aukuso murder trial, police provided protection for the witnesses in that case on the request of the Attorney General’s Office.

The former Police Commissioner Fuiavailili Egon Keil also offered protection to Fiame Naomi after the general election in 2021 but was declined.

“Samoa at that time was in a political crisis and as the leader of the winning party who would eventually become Prime Minister, it was our duty to ensure that she was safe,” said Papalii.

She also said police only pulled out police who escorted Tuilaepa after and during the political crisis when they knew it was safe to do so.

“If we fail to respond to a request and something worse happens after, then we failed to live up to our oath to serve and protect,” she said.

Asked if the Minister for Police was aware of the decision to provide escort, Papalii said she was not sure as the Minister was also overseas at the time, but believed the Associate Minister was.