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Dear Editor,

Commissioner of Public Safety Le’i Sonny Thompson is on a mission and reiterates the need to restore the “respect and trust in our police officers”(SN 4/4/17).

 I am confident that this also includes the investigative process for every case that is presented by a victim who is seeking assistance and justice. A process that promises to respond in a professional timely manner; a process that doesn’t force victims to run around chasing lies or excuses; a process that doesn’t frustrate victims to the point of giving-up or surrendering to corrupt practices to silence their frightened voices.

The Commissioner asks criminals to “CEASE AND DESIST” the criminal activities they are engaging in. We the people of American Samoa ask you Mr. Commissioner, that your people’s excellent performances will also reflect on their responsible investigating procedures. A reflection of your honor and integrity that fuels the esprit-de-corps you are so proud of.

Case in point: On Dec. 15, 2016, a case was filed against a government employee who works higher up in the Executive Branch of government, alleging sexual assault and assault, by one of his family members. This case also alleges that members of the Immigration office were dispatched and under false pretenses lured the couple away from where they were sheltered. (SN story Dec 19, 2016)

However, allegedly an alert Immigration officer on duty turned the couple away for lack of travel documents, deportation papers or tickets. While trying to force deport this couple, their 3 and 7 year old sons were left behind in the village.  (Child endangerment?)

To assist the investigators I have followed up on this case every month for its progress. I’ve heard every excuse. As of 2:00p.m. April 7, 2017 the investigation packet that left the CID office is still hung-up in the Commissioner’s Office. Unless this packet leaves the Department of Public Safety, the Attorney General’s Office has NO CASE to pursue.

“Victim blaming for domestic and sexual abuse is encouraged by the misuse of the cultural concept of AVA FATAFATA or utmost respect, especially when dealing with high ranking official in the government, church and culture,” stated Attorney General Eleasalo Talauega Ale, who was the keynote speaker at a candlelight event.

The Attorney General's comment is so relevant to what this victim is up against for opening her mouth for help.

Attorney General Talauega acknowledged the close-knit family ties that exist in the territory. But he found it hard to fathom how a community cannot be outraged by violence and abuse in the family.

Consider this, the alleged perpetrator not only works higher up in the Executive Branch of government, but also he holds one of the historical High talking chief titles in his village and county, is chairman of his church’s board, a senior elder deacon for the district, spouse, father, grandfather and the list goes on. The collateral damage affects so many innocent people.

It doesn’t even touch the mountain this displaced victim and her family are forced to carry.

The saddest of all is when the victim’s pastor himself, several of his deacons and lesser clan chiefs pressure the victims with “ it is the victim’s place to go and beg for forgiveness to the offending chief ” and make nice with the family again. “Ua ova le le mafaufau”.

And, we wonder why so few will step up and stand with the victims.

Currently, this case is under the umbrella of the American Samoa Legal Aid Office. Feb. 21, 2017 the victim filed her complaint with the Federal Labor & Wage department Honolulu branch and is receiving the support and assistance provided by the America Samoa Catholic Social Services.

The Commissioner’s diehard stand, “Our oath and promise to the general public is ‘TO SERVE AND PROTECT”, and fulfill their duty in accordance to the law “without hesitation”. 

My curious question: How can a victim of violence be served justice through the government agencies, when the offender is the GOVERNMENT?

Ipu Avegalio Lefiti

Victims’ Advocate