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President denies allegations

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ALLEGATION DENIED: President of the Samoa Victim Support Group, Siliniu Lina Chang at Court.The President of the Samoa Victim Support Group (S.V.S.G), Siliniu Lina Chang, has denied tampering with Police evidence in relation to a matter before the District Court.

• JUDGE: Vaepule Vaemoa Vaai 
• PROSECUTING LAWYERS: Fepulea’i Patrick Fepuleai and Diana Roma 

DEFENCE LAWYERS: 
• Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu for Siliniu Lina Chang and Tumua Luafalealo
• Papali’i Taeu Masipau for Sala’a Sale Sala’a 
• Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i for Elaine Ulia-Faiga 

Siliniu uttered the denial when her evidence continued yesterday in the ongoing hearing of charges against her and others in relation to an alleged attempt to defeat the cause of justice.

At the heart of the matter is Susan Caroline Stowers, who had apparently lodged a complaint against Elaine Ulia-Faiga, another defendant in the hearing.

Siliniu – and others – are accused of an attempt to ensure Ms. Stowers withdrew her complaint and left the country before the hearing.

Taking the stand, Siliniu also dismissed the accusation she had breached the trust of Ms. Stowers, who was under S.V.S.G’s care, after revealing in Court what the girl had told her in confidence.

During cross-examination, lawyer Fepulea’i questioned Siliniu about the work of S.V.S.G.

“From reading the reason why S.V.S.G was setup, its purpose is to protect the victims and care for them,” said Fepulea’i.

“There is nothing in here that says you are allowed to interview [the] victim or accused. Susan was also under your care and in this case she should’ve remained there until her Court case finishes.”

In response, Siliniu said it’s true that their work is to care and shelter the victims.

“But we cannot hold her if she keeps running away,” she said.

She explained she had not agreed to meet with Elaine, Terry (Elaine’s husband, a church minister who allegedly had a sexual relationship with Susan Caroline Stowers) and the parents of Susan. She said they kept visiting her office to meet with her.

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“What’s so hard about telling Elaine and [Susan’s] parents that came asking to withdraw the case that it is before the Court?” Fepulea’i asked.

Siliniu responded that she told them exactly that.

“What’s worse is S.V.S.G had talked to Terry and Elaine, who is the defendant in the case,” Fepuleai followed up.

Again, Siliniu explained she had not invited them to come to her office.

However, they were arguing in front of the office which is why they were brought in to her office.

“I don’t know what’s so bad with that,” she added.

The prosecutor said it was bad since there was a Court hearing pending on 25 July, where police would call their witnesses.

“But you talked with them and now you were tampering with police evidence,” said Fepuleai.

Siliniu denied this.

“I did not tamper with police evidence. I also didn’t want to meet with them. As I mentioned before, the faletua and faifeau have been coming to my office many times and I declined (to talk to them).”

Fepulea’i though was not convinced.

“Shouldn’t you have maintained your stance and told them the case was before Court?” he asked.

The President insisted she had advised them about it.

Fepuleai told Siliniu the case was before the Court and Police had all the witnesses, and she tampered with the evidence when she spoke with the defendant.

He also asked the President why she had disclosed a conversation she had with Susan, where she had promised not to tell anyone.

In response, Siliniu said: “Yes I did, and I haven’t spoken to anyone about what she had told me.”

“But you told the Court (what she told you)?” Fepulea’i put it to her.

Siliniu said she had to disclose the matter because of the charges she is facing.

But she insisted that she had not said anything to the Criminal Investigative Division about what Susan had told her, she had only told them about what Elaine said.

Another crucial area Fepuleai wanted to understand is why Siliniu initiated a meeting where the parents were present and decided to withdraw the charges.

In response, she explained that Susan’s mother had visited their office, seeking to withdraw the charges. She had then advised her to have a meeting with the others and “end this matter” that had been “dragging for too long”.

But Fepuleai insisted it was not Siliniu’s job to encourage the withdrawing of the charges.

Siliniu again denied the allegation.

Evidence from Susan, stating she was asked by Siliniu to apologise to her parents and others in a meeting that was held at the office was put to the President.

Siliniu told the Court she heard the evidence and “I looked at her with love and [wondered] why she would create such lies”.

Moving on to the letter made under the letterhead of S.V.S.G to the Police Commissioner to withdraw the charges, Fepulea’i questioned why it was done in that manner.

Siliniu said Inspector Sala’a said to have the letter written under their letterhead, since the case was brought to the Police through the S.V.S.G office.

“Am I correct if I say that Sala’a worded the letter?” said Fepulea’i.

The President denied this, saying he had only advised about the format of the letter.

“So it’s correct if I say the letter was a request from S.V.S.G to withdraw the charges, considering the wording of the letter?” the lawyer asked.

Siliniu said yes. She said the letter was made under the S.V.S.G letterhead but the request was agreed upon by the parents in the meeting.

“From your evidence you said you suspected the Commissioner will not accept the letter. Why is this?”

She explained she would not be surprised if the request was rejected because most of her correspondence with Lilomaiava was usually not accepted.

Fepulea’i also put to Siliniu that, according to evidence from Susan’s parents, she had told them to get Susan out of the country before the Court case on 25 July 2013.

The President denied the allegation.

Unsatisfied with this, Fepulea’i told the Court that Susan’s parents are “simple people” who live out in the village and do not understand Court proceedings, and that if a complainant is not present, the case will automatically be dismissed.

“But you are aware of these proceedings and you have been a police officer for a very long time. So it is true, your office had informed the parents to ensure their daughter leaves the country before the Court case.”

Siliniu repeatedly denied the allegation and said she had not made the instructions.

The trial continues today.

Siliniu is one of four defendants in the ongoing case. The President and Sala’a face a charge over the arrangement for Ms. Stowers’ parents to withdraw a complaint she filed against Ulia-Faiga in July 2013.

The second charge is against Siliniu and Tumua, where they are accused of an attempt to ensure Ms. Stowers left the country before a hearing, which had been scheduled for 24 July, 2013.

Lastly, the defendants are accused of telling Ms. Stowers not to cooperate with the Police investigation.

 

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