Director of National Prosecutions, Mauga Precious Chang and her lawyer Tuatagaloa Ming Leung Wai leaving court this morning
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 2016: The case against the suspended Director of National Prosecutions, Mauga Precious Chang was adjourned to next Friday by the District Court today as counsels fight over who has the right to prosecute for the police.
Mauga is charged with 2 counts of traffic offences to which she has yet to enter a plea.
Central to the counsels argument as to who prosecutes for police is the defendant herself, the suspended Director of NPO, Mauga Precious Chang.
The Attorney General had recruited an independent lawyer from New Zealand, Simativa Perese to prosecute on behalf of police.
However in Court today, Counsel Taulapapa Heather Brenda-Latu (a former Attorney General) informed the Court that she was representing NPO meaning she prosecutes for the police.
Perese who represented the police this morning, said he was acting for the police based on instructions from the Attorney General. He also informed the Court that the hearing for “who has the right to represent the police in the Police versus Precious Chang case, is schedule for next week before the Supreme Court.”
Taulapapa confirmed that she filed a letter of dedication giving her the power to act as prosecutor and is due next week in court. The Attorney General does not agree, and has applied for a declaration to dissolve the dedication.
Perese said police cannot prosecute themselves because they work with NPO, so the Attorney General decided not to appoint anyone local, because they probably all know the defendant and it is not fair to put them in that position.
“The Attorney General then went outside that circle and brought someone who is independent and all I do is prosecute,” said Perese.
He further stated that section 41 of the National Prosecutions Act, from a commonsense perspective means that any regular Samoan person can choose a prosecutor.
“That is not right, you can’t choose a prosecutor,” said Perese.
Judge Vaepule Vaemoa Va’ai comments
“I did not anticipate what’s happening now,” said Judge Vaepule.
“What I have before me are 2 charges and I came into Court expecting advice from the bar whether the charges are final.”
“I do not see this Court to be necessarily involved in arguments as to which Act prevails over which, that’s procedural matter and should be dealt with by the Supreme Court,” said Judge Vaepule.
He further stated that if counsels see it as appropriate for this particular argument in this Court, “it won’t happen sooner.”
He said notwithstanding the application before the Supreme Court next Monday, he wanted to know if the charges are final.
“No Your Honour and I seek one week adjournment to finalize the charges,” said Taulapapa.
Judge Vaai then said that the commonsense thing to do is for this Court to adjourn it until these charges are finalized, and then proceed on the basis that whoever has standing to prosecute the charges.
As counsel for the police Perese tried to intervene, “I will not give an answer as that is an issue for the Supreme Court,” said Judge Vaepule.
Perese admitted the unfairness of counsels in bringing this matter before the Court in such short notice but he was only here based on the instruction from the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor.
He also confirmed that the charges are not finalized as there is one further charge yet to be lodged.
Defense counsel asks to amend bail condition
Defense counsel (former Attorney General) Tuatagaloa Ming Leung Wai asked the Court for an amendment to the bail conditions of his client.
Mauga signs in at the police station every Friday and Tuatagaloa asked for his client to be remanded at liberty.
There was no objection from Taulapapa. However, Perese was quick to point out that the defendant has not complied with the bail condition of signing in at the police station on Friday.
Tuatagaloa said when attended to his client at the police station, he was informed by the police that his client was remanded at liberty, but when he received the file last Friday, he noted in the file that she had to sign in on Friday.
“That is why she has not complied with the bail condition,” he explained.
Taulapapa asked for a one week adjournment and was supported by the defense. Perese on the other hand argued that more time was needed depending on the length of the hearing in the Supreme Court next week.
Defense counsel objected and reminded the Court that his client was on suspension and the matter needs to be dealt with.
Judge Vaai asked the counsels what happens next in the absence of an order from the Supreme Court to stand down proceedings of this court.
Taulapapa said her submission (representing NPO) continues and Perese also said his instructions to act as prosecutor for police continues too.
Perese then reminded the Court why he wants a longer adjournment and advice the Court to look at a date for the trial, and allocate it.
“We can work towards that date and give that date to the Supreme Court,” said Perese.
Let the record show that:
- Counsel Brenda Heather Latu represents the National Prosecution Office, Counsel Simativa Pereise represents the Police and Counsel Ming Leung Wai represents the defendant;
- The hearing for who has the right to represent prosecution will be heard next Monday at the Supreme Court;
- The defendant is remanded at liberty;
- This matter is adjourned to Friday 23rd September 2016;
- If the Supreme Court had still not ruled on the matter, then we will do what is necessary that day in accordance with commonsense.