Press Release from the Press Secretariat - The news that a candidate will be running against the Prime Minister in the general election has come as “no huge surprise”, to the government leader Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi.
“It shows that democracy is very much alive in Samoa,” says Tuilaepa.
His opponent Tu’ula Kiliri from the village of Saleapaga is contesting the district seat against Tuilaepa.
Tuala, an electrician by trade and married to the daughter of the late Cabinet Minister Toi Aukuso who was convicted along with Leafa Vitale by the Supreme Court in 1999 for the murder of a Cabinet minister in 1999.
Toi had blamed his conviction on the Prime Minister insisting that he was innocent.
Ironically, it is not the first time that the same Tu’ula the candidate had challenged Tuilaepa in general elections.
His first attempt in 2011 was squashed by the Supreme Court when he was disqualified as he failed to comply with the electoral requirement of providing traditional services to his village in the form of “monotaga”.
This is the compulsory test of the candidate’s genuine desire to serve his constituency faithfully and with honour in every situation demanded of the Samoan Tradition. “Monotaga” is a service performed in the village by any matai through service to the village in every aspect of the faaSamoa.
This time around, the Tautua Samoa Opposition Party claims that their candidate Tu’ula has met all the needed requirements to contest the Lepa Electoral Constituency Seat.
“But that is a matter of opinion,” noted Tuilaepa. “Until the deadline for candidate registration expires and provided that he meets the entire Electoral Acts requirement, it’s premature to make any predictions.
He has put his village in a rather awkward position vis-a-vis the whole District Council.
“Saleapaga’s village council had unconditionally supported my candidacy as far back as September 2015 along with 6 other villages and sub-villages including my own – comprising the full Lepa Constituency. So the matter is really an issue for Saleapaga village now. That the seat is contested is the least of my worries. My primary sympathy is the impact on Saleapaga’s village council’s integrity and reputation that is now in question.
“All the Chiefs of Saleapaga village are now principal target of Tuula’s candidacy. Not me. But with the same token, it is also the constitutional right for anyone to run in general elections. And I respect that so long as the requirements of the Law are fully complied.
“Parliament has laboured continuously to enact many amendments to our Electoral Act to minimise electoral petitions and counter petitions especially in situations that compound our electoral systems due to our FaaSamoa and the fine balance that should exist between two different systems.”
Tuilaepa has held the Lepa district parliamentary seat winning 9 successive general elections. In seven of those elections, Tuilaepa was unanimously endorsed to run unopposed and he won with big margins.
“But these consensus were never made public because I respected the rights of any willing candidate to exercise their constitutional rights to contest the seat except the most recent elections that I was forced to disclose because of the stupid allegations by the Leader of the Opposition,” said the Prime Minister.
“The Lepa seat is to be remembered always is not mine to hold on. It belongs to all the electors presided over by the councils of matais as in all constituencies. And when the decision is unanimous to support one candidate, that is the indication of where the vote will go. It does not prevent any matai of the village to exercise his right to challenge.
“But if any requirement of the law is breached the village council has also the freedom to exercise its right under law to challenge and direct the sitting candidate to pursue to which the candidate must also comply as part of the MPs services to the constituency.
“This is the complex nature of the Samoa electoral system borne out of the marriage of convenience between the West Minister’s electoral concepts and Samoa’s own 3,000 years of tradition.”