What did the lawyers do to upset P.M. Tuilaepa?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Members of the legal profession could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has something against them. 

As if the daily ridicule through remarks on national TV, radio and newspapers targeting certain members of the profession is not enough, Tuilaepa has now turned his attention to lawyers working for different Government bodies, basically calling them a waste of time.

What they did to incur the wrath of Prime Minister Tuilaepa nobody knows just yet. But if Monday’s front-page story of the Samoa Observer was anything to judge by, lawyers working for different Government offices better be on the look out. 

For the uninitiated, the development surfaced in a letter written by Prime Minister Tuilaepa to Ministers of Cabinet leaked to the Samoa Observer, where he accuses the lawyers of being overpaid and underworked.

Dated 3 April 2018, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Aiono Mose Su’a, is copied.

“There is the Attorney General who can carry out all the legal work for Government Ministries and Corporations,” a translation of the letter reads. “I’ve been advised by the Attorney General that most legal matters are brought back to his Office to be resolved.”

And because of that, Tuilaepa believes the need for Government bodies to hire in house lawyers is redundant. 

How does he justify this? Well Tuilaepa claims Corporations and Government bodies cannot keep their lawyers and legal officers busy for eight hours a day which means money being spent on paying them is a waste of funds.

It was at that point also the Prime Minister Tuilaepa had a go at the Development Bank of Samoa.

Said he: “It is the Development Bank of Samoa who started this stupid practice of having their own lawyer in 1976, some 42 years ago and now everyone is following suit.”

“This lawyer resigned after the first year of doing very little in the D.B.S. because they couldn’t fully utilize his skills as a lawyer given the small scope of the work.”

“He became knowledgeable after one whole year of doing very little.” 

“Today, many lawyers in Ministries and Corporations do not own up. Why? High pay and excess time to do personal affairs are more important now than it used to be.”

From an outside perspective, Prime Minister Tuilaepa has a legitimate point.

Why should the Government continue to waste public monies if such officials and roles are unnecessary? Also, since the Office of the Attorney General exists, why is it not possible for them to do all the Government’s legal work?

Well the answer is simple, we believe. From what we are told, even with all the lawyers working at the Office of the Attorney General, they are poorly staffed. Many of them are overworked and are stretched by the load they have to carry.

Still, Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s point is worth considering. 

It would certainly be interesting to hear the perspective from one of the lawyers working for a Government body whom the Prime Minister has attacked for the sake of balance. 

While we’ve now heard from the Prime Minister, there are always two sides to a story.  

Besides, why the poor lawyers have been singled out in this leaked letter is beyond anyone. What is brewing in that Government building, with regards to lawyers, that we are not aware of just yet, is anybody’s guess?

But if you follow the Prime Minister’s public comments on a daily basis, including statements in Parliament and everywhere else, there is hardly a day that goes where he doesn’t have a go at the profession.

What we find interesting is that he could easily write a similar letter about the number of A.C.E.O’s in different government ministries? How many A.C.E.O’s is too many and when should the government draw the line? You could also say the same about I.T. officials, accountants and so forth?

If it is the waste of money that Prime Minister Tuilaepa is worried about, then we respectfully disagree. It’s not having too many lawyers that is causing the problem. It is corruption, abuse of power and exorbitant spending on failed projects that is costing this country. That’s what he should be concerned about.

What do you think?

Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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