Parliament’s Privilege Committee to decide action against the media

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA: FRIDAY 18 APRIL 2014: The Parliament Privileges Committee will investigate and recommend action against the media organizations that published the Chief Auditor / Controller report before Parliament had a chance to debate the report.

The Report that resulted in the report of the Officers of Parliament implicated the Minister of Finance while he was Minister of the Samoa Land Corporation and ultimately led to his resignation on Wednesday this week.

Before the Report was debated by parliament on Wednesday night, the Speaker La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao took half an hour to clarify that the publication of the Report was illegal and despite him writing to the respective media organizations to stop, he and the office of Speaker were the subject of editorials that even questioned the integrity of parliament.

“And there were even blatant and wrong accusations leveled at the Speaker and parliament implicating sinister motives,” said the Speaker.

“Now here, the Report has just come to Parliament for debate but already its content has been exposed widely both here and overseas. So what is the point of Parliament?” he asked.

“To stop this from ever happening again in the future, I sought the advice of the Attorney General,” said the Speaker.

“The Attorney General confirmed that the media broke the law by publishing the Chief Auditor / Controllers report before Parliament had a chance to debate it,” said the Speaker.

But the Attorney General went further and issued a press statement that even though the law has been broken; he was not taking legal action against those concerned.

“The Attorney General was only to advice but Parliament makes the final decision,” explained the Speaker.

“The leaked report gave people a chance to judge without giving those accused a chance to respond.

“It also breached Parliament protocol of releasing information without it being debated,” said the Speaker.

He then announced that he was referring the matter to the Privileges Committee to investigate and and report back to parliament.

Opposition leader Palusalue Faapo 11 said once a report is tabled, it becomes public information.

“The Attorney General’s advice was that the law was broken,” the Speaker retorted.

It is suspected that some MPs leaked the report in question to the media.

In past years, some local media outlets had been investigated for breaching parliamentary privileges and had resulted in public apologies or monetary fines.