Village councils overrule election candidates

Three candidates have been denied endorsement by their village councils to nominate for the next election – decisions that will now lead to legal proceedings.

The village council of Vaitele and Faleula instead passed down a decision to support their incumbent Members of Parliament in the upcoming election.

This has stopped candidates such as Paloa Louis Stowers and Toi Lealailepule Ioane of the Faleata No. 3 seat and Papalii Panoa Moala for the Sagaga No. 1 constituency from registering. 

M.P. for Faleata West, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, and the Minister of Education Sports and Culture and M.P. for Sagaga le Falefa, Loau Keneti Sio, are two of three unopposed candidates for the election.  

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Papalii said he was unable to register because the village mayor has refused to sign off his monotaga. 

“When I went to the pulenuu (village mayor) to sign my monotaga (service contribution requirements) he told me that the village has already met and agreed that Loau is the only candidate,” he said. 

“He made it clear that Loau is the only candidate he will sign off [on].” 

But Papalii said since he was bestowed the title Papalii in 1997 he had rendered service to his village together with service to the church. 

But in 2018 the commercial farmer said he was banished from the village with two other cousins. 

According to Papalii he later lodged a case in court but later withdrew it when he and matai from the village agreed to reconcile the matter.

But since then, he claims that they were not allowed back.

After receiving a rejection notice from the Electoral Commissioner, Papalii said he will now head to the courthouse to challenge it. 

“I am not worried because I know I rendered my monotaga,” he stressed. 

“It is now for the court to decide on it and to interpret the law.” 

Attempts are being made to obtain a comment from the village mayor of Faleula. 

Meanwhile, the village mayor of Vaitele, Toi Sakaria Taitu’ave, confirmed the village council of Vaitele had also decided that there will be no election for the constituency. 

In a recent interview with the Samoa Observer, Toi said the decision from the village is to support their incumbent M.P. Lealailepule. 

He further defended his decision not to sign the nomination paper for Paloa saying the candidate has not rendered the required monotaga service. 

But a matai from Vaitele and the wife of Paloa, Auali’itia Talimalamalama Stowers, has disputed the comments from the village mayor.

Auali’itia claims that the issue with Paloa has nothing to do with the monotaga but a decision from the village council to have no election for the constituency. 

She also questioned the ability of the village mayor to certify Paloa’s monotaga when Toi had just become a village mayor last year. 

“Sakaria just commenced his term as the pulenuu in the middle of last year and therefore does not qualify to certify the monotaga of Paloa,” said the woman who is a matai from the village. 

She added the former village mayor Tauolo Inuvaisisi Grey should be the person to give consent and justify the monotaga for Paloa because he had held the position longer. 

“Our matai sao had made it clear that there will be no election for the Vaitele constituency and the village will support Leala,” she said. 

“Paloa has rendered his service in the village for the past 20 years and I know that this has nothing to do with his monotaga including assisting preparations for S.I.D.S. and Pacific Games last year.” 

Auali’itia believes that voters and residents in Vaitele should be given the opportunity to exercise their right to cast their votes to decide their M.P. 

She questioned why people should waste their time standing in the queue to register for 12 hours when there is no election for their constituency.

“Why should the voters be penalised with $2,000 if they can’t vote for who they think should represent them?" she asked.

“Paloa had raised his rights as an individual to contest the seat but the idea was unwelcomed…”

Aualiitia stressed that the election is not something that belongs to a family or a particular village.  

She said that those living in Vaitele uta and Vaitele fou should be given the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. 

Furthermore, she said the family will be taking the matter to court. 

The constituency of Faleata 3 consists of the villages of Vaitele tai which has a village council, and Vaitele uta and Vaitele fou that do not have a village council. 

Those who can contest the seat in the constituency are restricted to those that render services and sit in the Vaitele tai village council. 

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