A notorious prison escapee and convicted rapist, Lauititi Tualima, who brought much shame to Samoa when his offending attracted the attention of 60 Minutes last year, has refused to cooperate with the Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu.
A Court official said he appeared to have slapped the microphone in protest to an instruction from the Court, which led the Chief Justice to order Police officers to escort him outside and chuck him straight back to Tafa’igata.
The commotion took place on Monday.
Tualima had appeared before the Supreme Court to face charges in relation to his latest escape from jail last December, during which he allegedly attacked a prominent businesswoman and her children at Ululoloa.
Tualima and three other prisoners were involved. One of them, Uili Manuleleua, remains at large.
Lawyer A’analofioamoa Mamaia, from the Attorney General’s Office, is prosecuting.
In Court, His Honour Patu had asked Tualima to enter a plea in relation to the charges against him when he refused. He said he would not enter a plea until the Court helps with the way he claims they are being mistreated at Tafa’igata Prison.
“It’s not just me, there are six of us who are locked up in a jail block since 21 December last year until today,” he told the Court.
“From then until now, we haven’t had a shower; we are being locked up naked with no food and drink. It smells really bad inside the room.”
Chief Justice Patu told Tualima if what he said was true, then he should take it up to the Commissioner of Prisons because the Court does not interfere with how the Prison operates.
“Prison is under the Government’s control as well as the Commissioner of Prison, but it does not stop you from entering a plea to the charges against you,” Chief Justice Patu told the prisoner.
“However, the prison guards are here as well, they have heard your request so I am advising them to do something about this if it’s true that it is happening, to allow you to have a shower and things like that because it shouldn’t be happening.
“They have heard the advice from the Court, and also let the Commissioner of Prison know about this because surely he is not aware of it.”
But Tualima wouldn’t have any of it.
“Your Honour, this is not the first time this has happened,” he protested in Court. “Even if the Court advises them, when we go back they will still continue with the mistreating of us prisoners.
“So I am seeking your help, have mercy on us.
“I know you have already instructed the prison guards, but I believe that if I do go ahead and enter a plea to the charges against me and the Court gives a decision, it won’t stop them (prison guards) from doing what they are doing.
“I am requesting you to please, if you can do something about the ill treatment of prisoners, especially those in the jail block.”
Tuaima added that even if he doesn’t give a plea, it wouldn’t stop the Court from doing its work.
“Unless you can assure me and provide proof that the prison officers will not treat us like this, then I will agree to give my plea to the charges against me,” Tualima insisted.
At that point, Chief Justice Patu reminded Tualima that there are three branches democracy in Samoa. There is the Government, the Judiciary, and the Legislative.
“The Ministry of Prison is under the umbrella of the Government, which means if you have any complaints with regards to them, then the government is there,” he told Tualima.
“Secondly, there are ways to go through with matters like this, like an official written complaint, and this complaint we then have to seek the side of the prison whether these allegations are true or not.
“So if you want to do this then that is my answer.
“However at this very moment, in this particular matter, if the defendant refuses to enter a plea, then under the law we have to note down that you pleaded not guilty to the charges against you.
“This is what we should be doing now because this is to note that you pleaded not guilty and we will set a date for the hearing.”
“It’s not that I pleaded not guilty,” he told the Court.
“I just refused to give any answer because I want to make sure that you give me a straight answer, because from what I am hearing is that I have to give an official complaint.
“The Commissioner of Prison cannot come to the jail block where we are being locked up.”
Chief Justice Patu responded: “You have to write a complaint, and then the Court will setup a date to hear your complaint.
“That is what you call civil matters, but for this matter, it’s called criminal matters, they are two different things and they have different rules.
“But as of now, I will note down that you pleaded not guilty to all the charges against you.
“And I also advice the prison guards to take you to see the Commissioner of Prison.”
The Supreme Court set the hearing date for 12 July 2018.
Tualima is serving time for multiple offenses including the rape of a tourist at the Treehouse where he tied up her husband while he raped her in front of him.
The incident drew international attention to Samoa, including 60 Minutes which later screened an extremely damaging story about the Prison system in the country.