An election candidate who was disqualified from running by the Supreme Court has questioned the ruling. Fuatimau Maumea Leniu lost as a result of an eligibility challenge brought against him by the former Member of Parliament, Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau.
“The court’s decision says that I am short by 29 days and that I spent 171 days of mandatory medical leave overseas which shows I have only stayed in Samoa for just 86 days,” he said.
“I may not be a candidate in this year’s general election, I will continue to serve and advocate for the needs of our village and for the best interest of our beautiful Samoa.”
The following is a letter he wrote to tell his side of the story so that members of the public can understand his situation.
• Retirement move to Samoa/Resident in 2013.
• Since Fuatimau decided to run for the 2016 Samoa elections, he made it a duty to study and fully understand the Candidate Handbook and ensured he had met all the qualifications and requirements.
• Fuatimau also sought legal advice from his lawyer and the Electoral Commissioner to help to guide and advise him on meeting all requirements.
CACULATED FACTS and MISCALCULATIONS
• The Electoral Act of 1963 Section 7 it states that a candidate must have “resided in Samoa for a period equalling or exceeding 3 years means a person has been in Samoa for at least 240 days in each year for a consecutive 3 year period ending on nomination day.”
• From Feb 12,2016 (Day of Nomination) to Feb 12,2015, Fuatimau resided on Samoa for a total of 332 days (greater than 240 days requirement)
• From Feb 12, 2015 to Feb 12, 2014 Fuatimau resided in Samoa for a total of 296 days (greater than the 240 days requirement)
• From Fe 12, 2014 to Feb 12, 2013 Fuatimau resided in Samoa for a total of 86 days and 171 days of mandatory medical leave.
• In Electoral Act 1963, Section 6 (d) (i), it states, “A person who satisfies the Commissioner that the person is required to obtain and has obtained medical treatment outside of Samoa for more than 125 days in any 1 year or more for the consecutive 3 year period ending on nomination day...” 6 (d)(ii) states...” the commissioner is satisfied of the matters referred to in this paragraph if the person provides the commissioner with declarations in forms 1a and 1b and scheduled one.”
• According to the Court’s ruling, Fuatimau Maumea Leniu is short of 29 days of residency in Samoa (Court ruling 125 days of medical leave + 86 days in Samoa = 211 DOR 2013-2014 (*short 29) which is less than 240 days.
• Fuatimau Maumea Leniu ruling 171 days of medical leave + 86 days in Samoa = 257 DOR 2013-2014 (*over 17 days) which satisfies the required 240 days. In fact, it is over 240 days being 257 (refer to medical act). Furthermore, Fuatimau also provided statutory evidence for his medical treatment, which was signed and approved by the Commissioner and therefore satisfies the electoral act of 1963 section 6 (d) 2.
• In Electoral Act 1963, Section 6 (d) (i) it states, “A person who satisfies the Commissioner that the person is required to obtain and has obtained medical treatment outside of Samoa for more than 125 days in any 1 year or more for the consecutive 3 year period ending on nomination day... 6dii states... “the commissioner is satisfied of the matters referred to in this paragraph of the person provides the commissioner with declarations in forms 1a and 1b and scheduled one”
*What’s wrong with the court’s interpretation?
The Court miscalculated days of residency due to limiting the medical leave for 125 days only not going according to what is written in the section above... “Person is required to obtain and has obtained medical treatment outside Samoa for more than 125 days in any 1 year or more...” By ruling this, it wrongfully disqualifies Fuatimau Maumea Leniu being that it only allows Fuatimau 125 days only of medical treatment when Fuatimau had “more than” 125 days as mandated by the act.
This makes Fuatimau fully eligible being that had he 171 days of medical leave in 2013-2014 satisfying the 240 days requirement due the days of residency now being calculated at 257.
• Would the court reconsider their miscalculations and their ignorance of the electoral act? On Thursday February 25,2016 shortly after the hearing the verdict, a reconsideration was submitted by Fuatimau and his lawyer for the days miscalculated by the court with capping the medical days only at 125 and therefore disqualifying Fuatimau in the electoral race.
• Awaiting a verdict by the court on the reconsideration, it wasn’t until Monday, February 29th that a verdict was reached. As told by his lawyer, the court did not even budge to reconsider their miscalculations capping Fuatimau for his medical leave of absence at only 125 days. Therefore, this forfeits Fuatimau from the 2016 General Election.
WAS JUSTICE SERVED?
• Is justice served when the court refuses to reconsider? How can a person be disqualified for being qualified according to the Electoral Act of 1963 Section 60?
• With only a small window of days prior to the election, it is extremely difficult to make things right with time constraints especially if the court refuses to reconsider their miscalculation. So what does an eligible candidate do coming so close, coming so far risking so much? Nothing.
• To prevent this from occurring in the future, Fuatimau proposes that in the future something so simple as a miscalculation should be mandatory reconsideration and examined by the court.
REFUTING CLAIMS BY THE OPPONENT TUISUGALETAUA AVEAU
• It was mentioned by my opponent Tuisugaletaua Aveau that I was only “a visitor” residing in Samoa, however, how can I be a visitor when I was born and raised on the soils of Samoa, served as a matai and fulfilled all my monotaga service to Lauli’i since 1998?
The Electoral Act of 1963 3A (a) and (b) states, “monotaga rendered by a candidate in respect of one or more of his or her matai titles within the territorial constituency in which the candidate intends to stand as a candidate of at least 3 years ending in the day in which the nomination paper is lodged with the commissioner.”
I have fulfilled this monotaga more than at least 3 years. I am a citizen of Samoa and became a permanent resident after retiring from the State Government of California in USA since April 2013. Therefore, my opponent is mistaken.
• Although this election is something that I have been striving to achieve for years and am upset with the court’s absurd decision, I believe that justice is served when we shed light on these unfair rulings.
May God bless the elections. To all the supporters from vaimauga Sasa’e: Vailele, Fagalii, Letogo, the Urban Constituencies Mauga Fiafia, Vailele Uta, Fagalii Uta, thank you for believing in my potential to serve you and your encouragement. To my home village Laulii, thank you for your unending love and support. It has always been an honor to represent you. To my Committee, your time and efforts will never go unnoticed. Last but not least, to my families, friends, spiritual leaders and churches near and far, thank you for standing by me from the beginning. Although I may not be a candidate in this year’s general election, I will continue to serve and advocate for the needs of our village and for the best interest of our beautiful Samoa.