Electoral Commission withdraws election charge

The Office of the Electoral Commissioner has withdrawn a charge of false declaration in relation to the recent general election against candidate, Fuatimau Maumea Leniu. 

Fuatimau was initially disqualified from contesting in the election as a result of an eligibility challenge brought against him by former Cabinet Minister, Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau. 

It questioned his qualification under residency and monotaga. 

A criminal charge against Fuatimau was later filed in the District Court by the Electoral Office and was dismissed by Judge, Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma on Monday. 

Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio confirmed their decision to withdraw. 

“Yes the decision (to withdraw the charge) was based following the review of the file taking into account the precedents being set in other similar cases by Honourable Courts,” said Faimalo.

“The evidence in file in our opinion was not enough for the prosecution to prove the charge to the standard required by the Courts like it did in similar cases we presented before it in recent weeks. So it was in the best interests of justice that the charges against Fuatimau Leniu could be withdrawn.”

Fuatimau was charged under, Electoral Act 1963, False declaration in section 5(4b). 

“(4B) A candidate who makes a false declaration under Form 1A commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding 50 penalty units or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two (2) years.”

Outside Court, Fuatimau said he had always believed that the decision made by the Supreme Court was not right. 

He told the Samoa Observer that he was “disqualified for being qualified”. 

The orator matai from Lauli’i said the decision that disqualified him from the Supreme Court cannot be appealed and had hoped it was reconsidered. 

“The court’s decision says that I am short by 29 days and that I spent 171 days of mandatory medical leave overseas which shows I have only stayed in Samoa for just 86 days,” he said.

Under the Electoral Act 1963, Section 6 (d) (i) it states, “A person who satisfies the Commissioner that the person is required to obtain and has obtained medical treatment outside of Samoa for more than 125 days in any 1 year or more for the consecutive 3 year period ending on nomination day.”

Fuatimau maintains his innocence that the Court had miscalculated the days of his residency by limiting the medical leaves to 125days only instead of 125days in any 1 year or more.

“With that miscalculation it disqualified me when in fact I am eligible with 171 days  medical leave in 2013 – 2014 satisfying the 240days requirement with 257 days residency.”

According to Fuatimau his disqualification meant he could not represent the people of his village of Lauli’i and others from the Vaimauga constituency who supported him. 

He said it not only cost him a lot of money to pay for the lawyers the matter had also caused embarrassment to him. 

“It was an embarrassment when  people said I was not qualified and I had lost in the case,” he said. 

“But actually I was qualified and they had not reconsidered my case in which they would have seen this miscalculation. I will still continue to support my village and constituency and do what I can in terms of developments. I also want to acknowledge the people of my village for being there to support me during my case.”

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