Police avoid answers on who released a woman prisoner

Ministry of Police new Public Relations Officer, Superintendent Lemamea Sua Muliaga Tiumalu fronting the media today

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA: WEDNESDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2015: There is still no explanation from the Ministry of Police on how a woman prisoner allegedly released by the authorities was later identified as an escapee.

The woman, Vaioleti Stowers is serving time at Tafaigata prison was released by the authority of two Assistant Police Commissioners.

Talamua understands that Ms. Stowers was released twice on the same week and both times, she was accompanied out of prison by female police officers and was dropped off at prison on the first day by a niece.

It was during this brief time out of prison that she and a New Zealand man rented three cars from Samoana Car Rentals, changed license plates and sold the cars to different buyers including a senior police officer at Tafa’igata prison.

While she was on release by the police authorities, a public notice warned that she had escaped from prison and the information was disseminated to the media.

Ms. Stowers appeared before the Court Monday this week.

Realizing the media focus on her, she took advantage and denounced the Ministry’s claim that she escaped prison.

She confirmed on television that she was released on a warrant issued by the police authorities.

However, when a call was put through to the Tafaigata prison for confirmation, Talamua was told to seek answers from the Ministry, as all decisions comes from there.

When the media turned up for their weekly press conference with the Assistant Commissioner today, they were introduced to the Ministry’s new Public Relations officer, Superintendent Lemamea Sua Muliaga Tiumalu.

Lemamea could not respond to media questions on several issues pertaining to Ms. Stowers and a New Zealand male in alleged crimes that involve the sale of a car to a police officer.

Holland is still in police custody while investigations continue.

Superintendent Lemalu was not also sure if a senior police officer at Tafaigata resigned over this incident.

Both the Acting Police Commissioner Afamasaga Michael Soonalole and Assistant Commissioner Fauono Talalelei Tapu, who always fronted the press conferences, were not available.

“They are attending meetings,” was the response given for their absence.

“My apologies but I cannot respond to that issue because I am not familiar with it,” said Superintendent Lemamea.

Asked to confirm if decisions regarding the operation of Tafaigata prison still comes from the Ministry, Superintendent Lemalu said he did not know.

A new Prison Warden was appointed last year with the move to separate the Ministry of Police from the administration and operation of the Prisons due to many incidents in the past.

He asked the media to reserve the Stowers and prison issues for the Acting Commissioner.

The Ministry of Police and media weekly press conference are handled by whoever is Acting Commissioner, and sometimes by the Ministry’s spokesperson, Fauono Talalelei Tapu.