A 40-year-old man has been convicted and fined $800 for misleading the electoral process, sending out a message to the voters ahead of next year’s General Elections.
Aukusotino Ng Lam was sentenced by District Court Judge, Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma, on two charges of willfully misleading the Electoral Commissioner and signing a letter without the consent or knowledge of land owner, Toaono Ng Lam.
Aukusotino had signed papers to confirm the residency of some voters on Mr. To’aono’s Ng Lam’s land at Moamoa.
The voters, the Court heard, were in fact from Tapatapao.
The defendant pleaded guilty to the charges. Given the opportunity to address the Court, Aukusotino said he was truly remorseful.
“I had no idea I would end up in Court because of what I did,” he said. “I was pressured by the Electoral committees to do this and I had no idea I would get in trouble with the law.”
The defendant did not say which Electoral Committees he was referring to.
But he promised Judge Fepulea’i that his appearance in Court for this matter would be his last time in a court of law.
Judge Fepuleai noted Aukusotino’ plea but pointed out the seriousness of his offending.
“The aggravating factors of your actions Mr Ng Lam is the element of dishonesty,” he said. “You should know that elections is the heart of democracy.
“It’s an opportunity where citizens of this country get to elect their political leaders. And they don’t happen very often.
“So if this opportunity to elect our leader comes around, and voters and so as members of our community are not honest in the way they participate in the process, it will undermine the electoral process greatly.”
Judge Fepulea’i said a number of key changes to the electoral laws mean the work for the Office of the Electoral Commissioner is not an easy one.
“The Office of the Electoral Commissioner relies on the honesty of the voters and members of the community to ensure that the electoral process is fair and just,” he said.
“But if voters are not honest, as in your case, their work will be much more difficult.”
Judge Fepulea’i said the Court does not take these kinds of cases lightly.
“As I’ve said, elections is the heart of democracy in this country. The fact that your actions were deliberate makes it more serious.
“The Judges rely on principle terms to help them determine the kind of sentencing that appropriately deals with such cases.”
Judge Fepulea’i said imprisonment in these kinds of offences was eminent.
“However, I have taken into account the facts that you have pleaded guilty to these offences at the earliest opportunity, that you are a first offender and that you are remorseful of your actions.
“For those, I am of the view that imprisonment is not necessary but whatever decision that this Court gives today will reflect a message that these kinds of actions are not acceptable from our voters.”
Judge Fepuleai then convicted and fined Aukusotino for $800 to be paid by yesterday at 12pm or he’ll face eight weeks in jail.
The Samoa Observer understands that more cases of alleged breach of the Electoral Act 1963 have been referred by the Police to the Court.