The man who has stepped up to challenge Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi at Lepa does not meet the eligibility requirements to be a candidate.
That’s the gist of the legal challenge being brought by Prime Minister Tuilaepa against his rival, Tuula Kiliri Tuitui, in the Supreme Court.
The matter was brought before the Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu and Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai yesterday.
It was one of four eligibility challenges heard by the Court.
Tuilaepa was represented by lawyer Fepulea’i Patrick Fepuleai while Tu’ula was represented by Leota Suatele Manusegi.
Tuilaepa’s case is that his opponent has not satisfied the three-year of service to the village or “monotaga” which is stated under the new Electoral Amendment Act 2015.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa took the stand to tender his affidavit.
But three high-ranking chiefs from Saleapaga, where Tuula’s matai title is from, gave evidence in support of the Prime Minister that Tuula has not satisfied the requirement.
One of them was Sagale Lauiliu who told the Court that Tuula has never attended any village meetings.
He confirmed that while the title Tuula is from Saleapaga, he said he doesn't have a monotaga.
Falanaipupu Emau, another chief of Saleapaga, supported Prime Minister Tuilaepa.
He told the Court that Tu’ula had done some community work in the village after the tsunami of 2009. He helped with the electrical work at some families’ homes as well as the school building.
According to Falana’ipupu, as a member of the School Committee, he personally told Tuula to leave the work for another electrician but he insisted.
Later however, the witness said the village was surprised to receive a bill from Tuula in relation to the work he had done.
Falana’ipupu went on to tell the Court that some families had paid Tuula for his work.
Asked about his definition of the monotaga, Falana’ipupu said it is service to the village and the church free of charge.
Sogimaletavai Neueli Talosaga, who claimed to be “sa’o” of Tuula’s family at Saleapaga, also gave evidence. He told the Court that Tuula has never attended any village meetings.
At that point, Justice Lesatele asked Sogimaletavai if he isn’t the one who is suppose to render Tuula’s monotaga to the village.
Sogimaletavai said no. He told the Court that is not the responsibility of a Sa’o.
The chiefs should serve the sa’o not the other way around.
But Tuula denied the evidence by the three witnesses.
“Up until now, I still render my “monotaga” to the village,” he said.
He referred to the bill of the work he had done for the village as proof that he has provided service he has not been paid for.
That, he said, is part of his “monotaga”.
“So if you think I haven’t provided my monotaga, get a paper and pen and calculate my monotaga based on that bill.”
He reminded that in 2009 when the village was struck by the tsunami, he offered his service for free to the village.
It was then that lawyer Fepuleai asked Tuula if he has provided any monotaga from 2013 until the present. He put it to him that the monotaga he is referring to is between 2009 and 2011, which is three years ago.
Fepuleai also asked him if his understanding of his monotaga is the unpaid bill.
Tuula said yes.
But Chief Justice Patu interrupted. He put it to the witness that in the case Saleapaga pays the bill, it means his monotaga is finished.
But Tu’ula disagreed.
He said that since 2011, he has never received any money from that bill. He said his understanding is that is his service to the village. He also told the Court he recently spent $700 on a church raffle.
“That is my service to the village.”
The matter has been adjourned until Friday for a decision.
Other challenges heard yesterday were Fiame Naomi Mataafa vs. Fiaola Iosua Lole at Lotofaga, Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau vs Fuatimau Maumea Leniu at Vaimauga i Sasae and Speaker Laaulialemalietoa Polataivao Leauatea vs. Faaulusau Rosa Duffy Stowers.
The hearings continue today.