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Police Brutality: Rep. Toeaina calls for a House Investigation Committee

Manu’a faipule, Rep. Toeaina Faufano Autele says a House Investigation Committee (HIC) needs to be established to look into many issues — including alleged police brutality at the TCF — being reported from around the territory. See story for details.  [photo: AF]

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Manu’a faipule, Rep. Toeaina Faufano Autele says it’s time to establish a House Investigation Committee (HIC) to look into a lot of issues being reported from around the island, especially the alleged mistreatment of inmates at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), as reported by Samoa News.

Toeaina, an educator by profession, told House members earlier this week that he hopes they are keeping up with recent Samoa News reports about the inmates allegedly being mistreated by the guards at the TCF.

As chairman of the House Judiciary and Immigration Committee, Toeaina is calling a hearing next week to discuss the issue, and he wants the Attorney General, the Public Defender, and the Chief Probation Officer to testify and explain what the Fono must do to put a stop to these actions.

Toeaina told lawmakers that after he read a Samoa News article about an inmate telling the judge that he was badly beaten by prison guards, and asking that the Court take action, "the only thought that came into my heart is the Fono needs to step up and do something to stop this unwanted behavior by these people in power.”

He continued, "I strongly believe this is a good time for the House Speaker and Vice Speaker to consider my advice, that it’s about time to establish a House Investigation Committee (HIC) to look into these issues and take action.

“Don’t waste our time talking about nonsense issues inside the chamber such as why the Executive Branch is holding the Fono’s budget for travel, complaining about this and that. We are leaders and it’s our responsibility to look at every corner of the territory and the government, and see what we can do to change the life of someone who is in need.”

Toeaina said he was very disappointed after he read the newspaper article because these were things that were happening during the previous administration and it appears that they still exist.

“I don’t want our people to think that the Fono knew about what was happening at the TCF but turned away and discussed other issues such as the Fono’s budget for travel, instead of doing something to avoid this problem from continuing to happen. I think it’s about time for us to look at these sensitive issues,” Toeaina continued.

“Mistreating of inmates inside the prison by police officers is against the law. Things like this happened in the past, which resulted in the federal government stepping in and charging police officers working at the Tafuna prison at the time — including the Warden for assaulting an inmate. I don’t want these things to be repeated at the TCF."

Speaking to Samoa News after the Fono session, Toeaina said he really wants the leaders of the House to exercise the authority they have, and establish an investigating committee to deal with a lot of sensitive issues that are ongoing in government.

In addition to the TCF matter, Toeaina said he believes there are issues inside government, specifically in the executive branch that the investigating committee needs to look at.

He said most of the time when the Fono committees hold hearings, faipule don't have enough time to question each director on issues pertaining to their departments.

Therefore, the only time the Fono can get all the information is when the investigating committee exercises it power and subpoenas everyone to testify.

As one of the longest serving faipule in the House, Toeaina recalled the last time a House Investigation Committee (HIC) was up and running. He served as vice chairman and in addition to looking into pertinent government matters, he said the HIC was also able to investigate accusations against the governor at the time, for alleged misuse of government money.