Alleged bribery trial begins
A trial of two men from Gagaemauga No. 3 accused of giving away money to other constituents during the General Election started yesterday.
Seuamuli Afele Maiava and Keti Nafoi pleaded not guilty to the charge of bribery against them.
They were represented by lawyer, Tuisa Tasi Patea, in the District Court.
Acting Electoral Commissioner and lawyer, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio was the prosecutor.
In the summary of facts, Faimalo said in the case of Mr. Nafoi, he is charged over giving $30tala to a voter Taumafaiga Itamua, a day before the election. He explained that the defendant told the voter to remember the election.
As for Seuamuli, Faimalo said similarly he gave $100tala to complainant Itamua Talilela.
Seuamuli is accused of telling the voter not to tell anyone about the money he had given him on the day of the election.
First to give evidence was Lino Tiatia of Avao Savai’i in the case of Mr. Nafoi.
Mr. Tiatia said he had left with the defendant to Safotu to buy some food for election preparations.
He recalled that the car had stopped at Manase in front of Stevenson resort where Taumafaiga had stopped the car to ask for cigarettes.
“Nafoi told him he does not smoke and handed him $20,” said the witness. “Nafoi drove the car and I was the only passenger.”
During cross examination, Mr. Tiatia changed his story. He told the Court there were in fact three people that were in the car and not two as he initially mentioned.
Lawyer Tuisa cross examined Mr. Tiatia asking him how he could have seen the amount of money if he was sitting at the back of the car. The witness maintained that he saw it was money but is now not sure if it was $20tala or $10tala.
He said he did not hear Mr. Nafoi say anything to Taumafaiga.
Next on the stand was Taumafaiga Itamua who is from the village of Lelepa.
The witness works as a security guard at the Stevenson resort. He recalled that the day before the election he saw the car from Safotu heading to Avao.
It was during that time when the car stopped in front of him that he approached it to ask for a cigarette but instead Mr. Nafoi gave him $30tala.
“He said to me remember the election,” said Mr. Itamua. Lawyer Tuisa asked the witness what was his understanding of what the defendant had told him.
In response, Mr. Itamua said it means to him that his vote has been bought.
Again the lawyer asked the witness if the truth was he had asked the defendant for money to buy cigarettes when he knew he does not smoke.
The witness denied this saying he did not ask for money but a smoke.
Tuisa then told the witness about a story of a person who went and looked for salt but when there was none he was given money to buy salt.
Again the witness maintained that money is buying votes but a cigarette is a cigarette.
Judge Vaepule questioned the witness why he did not think that a cigarette given to him is not a bribe but money was.
Mr. Itamua responded that money is bribery and a cigarette was just a cigarette.
When Vaepule asked him why he had not rejected the money if he knew it was a bribe the witness said the car fled right after the money was given to him.
“Do you understand that you should also be charged for accepting bribery,” asked the Judge.
Mr. Itamua responded and said he did not know.
The first witness for Seuamuli’s case was Itamua Talilela.
The matai said he was given $100 by Seuamuli on the day of the election and was instructed not to say anything to anyone.
He added that he accepted the money because he wanted to use it as evidence to take the defendant to Court for his actions.
In the cross examination, Tuisa told the witness that the money was given to him because he had persistently been to Seuamuli’s family asking for money.
It was also put to the witness that Seuamuli did not instruct him not to tell anyone what he had given him.
However, the witness said it was only him and the defendant who knew about the money.
He also denied asking the defendant for money.
The trial continues.