Police, L.T.A. and P.M. Tuilaepa

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The tussle between the Police and the Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.) over the enforcement of traffic infringements and the collection of fines is an interesting one. 

Purely from an outside perspective, it appears to be a show of who has the biggest muscles and how far one can flex them. And since both parties are not willing to compromise, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi will be required to intervene once more, as if he doesn’t have a lot on his plate already.

But then who else can the public service turn to? 

It was Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s administration who started this in the first place and now it has come back to haunt them in a big way. 

Remember the days when most things traffic-related were handled by the Police?

For the uninitiated, the dispute surfaced last week when it was revealed that the Commissioner of Police Fuiavailiili Egon Keil had written to the Prime Minister and Police Minister Tuilaepa requesting that the Road Traffic Act 2009 is amended. He wants the Police to be able to create and print their own traffic offence notices, issue traffic citations and get credit for revenue generated from traffic fines.

The Commissioner also wanted the Prime Minister to endorse the returning of all law enforcement functions related to traffic enforcement to the Police. Why?

“After all S.P.S. is a 24-hour law enforcement entity, unlike L.T.A,” Fuiava wrote. 

“With L.T.A.’s efforts directed away from street enforcement, they can focus on administrative mandates such as driver’s license and vehicular registration requirements, including road construction and maintenance and vehicular safety inspections conducted on their premises.”

He argued that the change would eliminate the confusion by the public, when two separate traffic law enforcement agencies operate simultaneously on the same streets. Fuiava has a point. 

But there is a snag. Under the current Road Traffic Act 2009, the L.T.A. is the authorized entity to print ticket books and collect revenue generated from traffic infringement penalties. The Chief Executive Officer of L.T.A., Galumalemana Ta’atialeoitiiti Tutuvanu-Schwalger, knows this and she is standing her ground.

“While the determination by Commissioner of Police to remove traffic law enforcement is noted, the work and livelihoods of 30-plus of my staff who will be affected if the change goes ahead is of my priority as well as of my Management and Board,” she said in response.

 “There were valid reasons why the responsibilities of traffic law enforcement including the issuance (T.O.N.s) etc. were transferred from the Ministry of Police to the Land Transport Authority.

“Due to the high number of minor traffic offences to be processed in addition to criminal matters that is under the jurisdiction of Police, the Traffic Division was set up under L.T.A. to deal with minor traffic offences.

“The efficiency in the processing of T.O.N.s was improved since the responsible agency for issuing tickets was moved to L.T.A.” 

Galumalemana added that the L.T.A. has the resources needed for traffic law enforcement. She said the initiative has always been supported by previous Commissioners of Police, who contributed to the transfer of traffic law enforcement to be part of the L.T.A’s mandate. 

“The L.T.A houses the vehicle registration and drivers license data; it is easier and quicker for our officers to find information about an offender when needed.”

Like all things in life, there are always two sides to a story. And looking at Galumalemana‘s reasons, the L.T.A. also have valid points. 

Which means the outcome of this dispute is going to have to be decided Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his Cabinet. 

Which way will he go? And how will he go about it without being seeing as taking sides? 

Whatever he does, the truth is that the friction between the bodies are quite obvious and it cannot be allowed to continue. Especially when it comes to such an important matter like security and road safety.

What’s needed obviously is for the Police and L.T.A. to come together, sort out their differences, which is not what is happening. A tough decision needs to be made. Let’s wait and see.

Have a safe Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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