Robbed of his basic right, Leo’o is “both relieved and sad”

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

In the Samoa Observer of 14 September 2016, the story titled “Court vindicates candidate” was published.

It described the ruling by the District Court the week before in connection with an allegation arising from the recent General Elections.

The defendant in this case was Leo’o Dr. John Adams. He entered his name to contest the seat of the Aleipata Itupa-i-luga constituency, but he was challenged by M.P. Amituana’i Fagaivalu Samu.

As a result, Leo’o was prevented from contesting the seat.

After the elections though, it was revealed that five other candidates had similarly been disallowed to contest the seats of their choices.

Why? Because their opponents had objected saying they were not eligible to contest those seats.

In Leo’o’s case however, the complainant argued that Leo’o had not provided his monotaga as the law demanded. (Monotaga is service to the village.)

And then on 24 February 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the eligibility challenge.

Later, with Leo’o now being accused of making a false declaration, the matter was heard in the District Court, the allegation was not proven, and the charge was dismissed.

Still, even though he has now been cleared of a very serious accusation that is very likely to haunt him for the rest of his life, what about the corrupt government officials who had allowed this gross injustice to continue all the way up to the Supreme Court?

Indeed, what does that say about this country’s general election system that has for years been instrumental in maintaining this one-party rule in a country that is supposed to be founded on God, and yet we have reached the point where we’ve become the laughing stock of the free world?

So let’s see.

On the front page of the Sunday Samoan of 11 September 2016, the story titled -  “$5.7 million waste, closure possible” - was published.

 On the front page of the Samoa Observer of 13 September 2016, the story titled - “Lawyer moves to quash charges” - was published.

 On the front page of the Samoa Observer of 14 September 2016, the story titled - “Legal twist raises eyebrows” - was published.

 Now the question is: What do these stories have in common?

 Answer: The governing Human Rights Protection Party.

 And what are they telling us? It’s a two-word story. Absolute Power, it’s called.

As for aspiring politician Leo’o Dr. John Adams, now that the worry he would have been nursing all that time as he was waiting for that court hearing to come along, no doubt today he’s “both relieved and sad”.

He said: “Our constituency was not given the chance to vote in the general election. So when I was disqualified the seat was automatically given to the other candidate. The people of the village and the constituency weren’t able to express their Constitutional rights to vote.”

And now that he’s cleared of any wrongdoing, he’s grateful that “the decision of the court just proved that I was right all along.”

He went on: “I am glad that it is all over because it took up a lot of time. I’ve got a busy clinic and every time we have a court case or hearing, I take a day off and for me; it wasn’t an easy thing to do because I have a clinic to look after and most importantly I have a lot of patients coming in for help.”

“But now that it’s done, I am happy and relieved. At the same time, I am sad and disappointed that we just got the final decision now and it’s too late.”

Leo’o says he is sad that the 1,800 people of their constituency who registered were not given the chance to vote.  

He goes on to explain: “Our constituency was not given the chance to vote in the general election, because there were only two candidates from our constituency, and that was me and Amituana’i. So when I was disqualified the seat was automatically given to the other candidate. 

“So the people of the village and the constituency weren’t able to express their Constitutional rights to vote. That’s my biggest disappointment and also the biggest disappointment for the people of our constituency.”

“But now that the court case if done, I am glad that we have set the record straight. I never made a false declaration. I am not capable of making a false declaration.

“And the court’s decision now proves that I was eligible to contest in the general election this year. But it’s already too late.”

Leo’o says he truly believes that for Samoa to move forward, its Constitution should be amended to ensure that the discrepancies such as the one that showed up this time are done away with.

He says: “My opinion is that the government needs to revisit the amendment because it has not been prepared well.  What about people who have rendered Monotaga for 20 to 30 years on an on and off basis?”

Leo’o also believes the amendment limits and discourages election candidates. This is unfortunate, he says. He believes “the opportunity should be given to people to have a voice and represent their constituencies in Parliament.

“If you look at it, five out of the five cases of all the candidates, who have been disqualified were successful. So that says something about the current legislation.”

“Maybe they need to relook and revisit the current legislation. Because the biggest losers are the people of the constituency who are not given the opportunity to vote.”

“Especially those constituencies that have only two candidates. They automatically give the seat to one of the two candidates if the other one drops out or has been disqualified.”

Nevertheless, he wants to make it clear that he is not implying the legislation is wrong.

“I am not saying it’s wrong,” he explains. “I am just saying it’s unfair.”

He also points out: “In my opinion, this is something our government needs to have a look at moving forward. I think one of the things our government should do is to allow the villages or the constituencies, to make their decisions on who they believe should represent them in parliament.”

“Take for instance what happened to Le Tagaloa Pita and his monotaga.”

“He was disqualified from running in the election because he didn’t have a monotaga. But that is a practice according to the customs (agaifanua) of his village or constituency in Savaii. I think the legislation contradicts with some of the customs in our villages.”

“I strongly believe that the constituency should be given the opportunity to choose whether they want someone else to represent them in parliament or not. This is done so that they should also be given the chance to vote.”

“My biggest disappointment is that the people of our constituency who were eligible to vote were not able to vote.”

Looking ahead, Leo’o said he is not sure whether he will put up his hand again for the next election.

“We’ll see how it goes…I might change my mind.”

Serving was what motivated Leo’o to contest in the March General Election this year.

“I am a servant, and serving people was the main reason why I wanted to run in the general election.”

“I have always been serving my people and the people of my constituency, and I thought that it was about time I take my service to the next level. That’s what motivated me to run in the first place.”

“I have been a doctor for 35 years now. I have been working in different places in Samoa. It’s all about service. If God thinks that I can do a better service being a doctor, then so be it. I am just a servant.”

Finally, he wants to thank all the people who have been supporting him throughout the case.

“I want to thank the people of my constituency for all their support and patience during the court case. A lot of people showed their support and had given me their support.”

“I also want to thank my families and friends for believing in me and for helping me out all throughout the court case.

 “Still, I am happy that it is all over and it was successful,” he says.

“Lastly, I want to thank all the nuns and sisters and also the elders at the Mapuifagalele Home for the Elderly, for they are my biggest supporters.”

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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