Court vindicates candidate
Leo’o Dr. John Adams is a relieved man.
It follows a ruling by the District Court last week in his favour, dismissing an allegation of him making a false declaration in relation to his candidacy for the General Election in March.
The hearing of the allegation against Leo’o was the last of five candidates who were unable to contest the General Election due to eligibility challenges by their opponents.
When Leo’o put his name in to contest the seat, he was challenged by the Member of Parliament for the Aleipata Itupa-i-luga, Amituana’i Fagaivalu Samu.
On 24 February 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the eligibility challenge. The complainant argued that Leo’o had not provided his monotaga as the law demanded.
Later, Leo’o was accused of making a false declaration. The allegation was not proven and the charge has since been dismissed.And now that it’s all over, Leo’o is both relieved and sad.
“The decision of the court case just proved that I was right all along,” he said.
“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 said he is not disappointed he wasn’t unable to contest in the election.
Instead he is sad that the 1,800 people of their constituency who registered were not given the chance to vote.
“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."
“That’s why I was really disappointed because they were ready to cast their votes to whomever out of the two candidates should represent the constituency in Parliament, but then the court said otherwise."
“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.”
Moreover, he believes that in order for Samoa to move forward, the new amendment of the Constitution needs to be reviewed.
“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 with Leo’o saying 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 all successful. So that’s says something about the current legislation.
“Maybe they need to relook and revisit the current legislation."
“Because at the end of the day, the biggest loser are the people of the constituency who are not given the opportunity to vote. Especially for those constituencies who had only two candidates. They automatically give the seat to one of the two candidates if the other one drops out or have been disqualified.”
Nevertheless, he said he is not implying that the legislation is wrong.
“I am not saying it’s wrong, I am just saying it’s unfair,” he said.
“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 village or the constituencies to make their decision 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."
“For our constituency, 1,800 people registered in the electoral roll this year. And they didn’t vote because there were only two candidates, me and Amituana’i. So when I was disqualified, they didn’t have to vote. The seat was automatically given to Fagaivalu.
“And this is unfair for these people, because they were willing to vote. There should be a back-up plan if a case like this happens.
On the other hand, Leo'o is grateful that it is all over.
“I am happy it was successful,” he said.
“Like I said before, I am not disappointed that I didn’t run in the election. My main concern was that our constituency never voted.”
Looking ahead, Leo’o said he is not sure whether he will put up his hand up again for the next election.
“We’ll see how it goes…I might change my mind.”
Serving was what motivated Leo’o to contest the March General Election .
“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."
“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.”