Judge declares his conflict of interest

By Lanuola Tupufia – Ah Tong ,

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COURT ISSUES: Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio and Judge Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma.

COURT ISSUES: Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio and Judge Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma.

District Court Judge, Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma, has declared his conflict of interest in the hearing of charges against election candidate and lawyer, Tuala Ponifasio Iosefo.

Tuala, who was a candidate for the constituency of Gagaemauga No. 1, pleaded not guilty to nine charges of bribery and treating in relation to March’s General election. 

There are six complainants from the same constituency in the matter.

Although the matter was set down for final adjournment yesterday and for the hearing, Judge Fepulea’i said he could not proceed with it for several reasons.

“Reason being is firstly I have a connection to the village of Leauva’a where parties involved are from,” he said.

“Secondly, the other Judges are not available and are engaged in other matters today. 

“I note that the complainant is ready to proceed together with the defendant and witnesses. However the Court is not ready to proceed due to the reasons I had given. 

“The matter has been adjourned until 27th February 2017.”

The charges were brought by the constituency’s voters namely; Fa’atauuu Malautea, Felagolagomai Tino, Ituao Enele, Taulamago Simone, Tevaga Samilolo and Va Vea. 

They are represented by lawyer, Ruby Drake. 

Tuala did not indicate to the Court who was representing him. 

The first charge against the defendant was filed by Fa’atauuu Malautea. 

He alleges that in February this year Tuala promised to arrange a loan to complete a church building at Leauva’a as well as arranging for a group of fruit pickers from the church to travel to New Zealand for the purpose of inducing members of the church to vote for him and therefore commits the offense of treating and bribery. 

In a separate incident in late February at Samalaeulu, the candidate is accused of giving $500 to Vaifale Faasalafa to distribute to all the people in attendance with the purpose to induce the informant to vote for him. 

Also in March the defendant through his agent committed the offense of treating and bribery by providing accommodation, food and transport to electors of Gagaemauga no1.

Around February at Leauva’a, Tuala is also accused of giving $100 for the purpose of inducing Ituao Enele to vote for him. 

Taulamago Simone claimed that in February at Malifa about ten electors were given a sum of $200 and others $100 each. 

 Another incident took place at Vailele around March with the presence of about 80 electors where Tuala is accused of handing money to his committee members from which varies from $100, $50, $40 and $30tala and to be handed to the electors.   

Tevaga Samilolo also claims that in March at Samalaeulu at a gathering of the village called by the defendant, he “promised and announced first will provide school resources to improve all school.”

According to the charge, the defendants also promised to “ensure that compensation will be paid to landowners whose land would be taken for construction of bridge in the village. 

Thirdly will pay for airfares of 20 people listed to go to New Zealand to pick apples and lastly, he will launch lawn mowing contractors in Samalaeulu and therefore provide employment for young people of the village…”

The last charges brought by Va Vea relates to an alleged incident at Samalaeulu in February where through Tuala’s agent did give $50 tala. 

Va Vea also alleged that in another occasion at Samalaeulu he was given another $50 tala by an agent of the candidate. 

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