Former Vaitele Mayor mounts legal challenge

Living with a severe disability is not slowing Toi Ioane Ilalio’s fight to contest the seat of Faleata No. 3 at next year’s General Election.

Toi had registered to fly the flag of the Samoa First Political Party (S.F.P.P.) but the Office of the Electoral Commissioner (O.E.C.) rejected his candidacy. 

Now the former mayor of Vaitele is challenging the decision in Court.

He was one of 20 petitioners appearing before the Supreme Court for mention in his bid to challenge the O.E.C.’s ruling. 

Lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, who is also the party’s leader, is representing Toi.

Faleata No. 3’s incumbent Member of Parliament is the Associate Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi. The constituency is comprised of Vaitele tai, Vaitele uta and Vaitele fou. 

Only six S.F.P.P. candidates are enrolled for the April General Election. 

But if Toi’s challenge is successful he will not only raise the party’s national presence but ensure that Lealailepule does not run for re-election uncontested. 

Speaking to this newspaper after completing his nomination process, Toi said that although his legs are not functional, his brain is sharp and his body energised by the fight. 

“I have a God-given talent and none of this worries me. All that matters is that my wheelchair is able to make it to where I have to be," he said confidently.

Should Toi’s petition be approved, his main election campaign priority will be the improvement of the area’s water supply.

“Vaitele tai, uta and Vaitele fou: I will look at the issue of water in Vaitele fou and Vaitele uta especially. Vaitele tai is alright because they are in the industrial area, they do get cut off from the supply too but not as often as areas further inland,” he said.

“I plan to carry out a project of building underground tanks to store water, maybe it can cover an acre or two, but there is a lot of rainwater being wasted [...] instead it could feed these tanks through drains and it could be distributed when there is a water shortage.”

Next on his policy platform is educating the children of Vaitele to ensure all families have educated children. 

“I will focus on the first-born of each family; if they are not financially sustainable, I will make sure that child is able to continue his education, at least finish high school,” Toi said.

“[The] first priority is these people, because this may be the reason why there is a rise in youth breaking into homes and [being] imprisoned.

“It’s not due to the lack of good foundations in families, like the mother going to the bingo and [performing] no evening devotions; maybe these are extras, but at the core, it is because of the lack of wealth and resources and development in families.”

Toi believes that if a family’s first child is able to finish their school education, they can become an example to assist the rest of the family by providing an example of the benefits of completing school. 

“As an educated child, he should have the mind to encourage his siblings to finish their education while he stays to help his parents, whether it be employment [in an office] or [as a] farmer, at least there is another source of income coming in,” he said.

Another of Toi’s policy ideas includes running a bus, especially for Vaitele students to be transported to school and back.

Lastly, he says that if allowed to run and elected he will be an advocate for projects to benefit people with disabilities.

Toi spent most of his working life in Brisbane, Australia before moving back to Samoa more than five years ago.

He is married to Ailini Wong Kee-Ilalio and has five children.

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