M.P's cash payment divides Neiafu
Matai from Neiafu are divided over whether a $2,000 payment made to the village in 2015 by a former M.P. fulfils his monotaga (village service) requirement to contest the election.
Former Member of Parliament for Alataua West, Lafaitele Patrick Leiataualesa, was recently given the green light to run in the election only to have his nomination challenged by the incumbent M.P. for Alataua West, Aliimalemanu Alofa Tu’uau.
She claimed Lafaitele has not rendered monotaga to the village as is required of candidates.
From the evidence of several matai who testified in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the elderly men from Neiafu are torn over the question of monotaga.
A former village mayor of Neiafu, Mamea Valosaga Siaosi, confirmed there was $2,000 cash presented to the village council from the former M.P.
He claims the fund was intended for Lafaitele’s ongoing contribution for his monotaga (monotaga fa’aauau) in 2015.
The witness told the Court that the money was distributed among senior matai at the time.
Mamea agrees that the definition of monotaga in the village is to render service regularly through monetary, food, ava for meeting and other kinds of contribution.
But he pointed out that the $2,000 from Lafaitele was given for the purpose of his monotaga and any other contribution required from him should be deducted from that fund.
Lawyer, Leota Tima Leavai, queried Mamea if he agrees with other witnesses from the applicant that monotaga should include offering other services to the village, and giving pigs and ava for village activities.
Leota who is acting on behalf of Ali'imalemanu also put it to the witness that the $2,000 does not satisfy the requirement of monotaga for the village of Neiafu.
In response, Mamea asked the lawyer if she is suggesting that the $2,000 is not enough for the monotaga.
He maintained that the $2,000 serves as Lafaitele’s ongoing contribution for his monotaga throughout the years.
Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren further asked the witness where the $100 tala contribution of Lafaitele came from if the village had already distributed the $2,000.
Mamea replied it had come from the $2,000.
Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai then put it to the witness that the $2,000 has already been used by the village and why he continues to insist it’s from the fund.
Again he said it’s from the fund that was presented by Lafaitele as his ongoing contribution for the monotaga.
The second witness was Safiu Apelu Fitu, a 76-year-old matai from Neiafu.
It’s been three years since Safiu has been a matai and recalls the $2,000 that was presented to the village council in 2015.
Leota then put it to Safiu that Lafaitele has not rendered service to the village by way of giving ava during meetings, attending meetings and giving ie toga (fine mats) and food.
In response, Safiu said the $2,000 is intended to cover for all of those contributions for Lafaitele.
When it was put to him that the fund has already been used, Safiu responded that it’s the decision of the village on how it’s used but the fund is intended for monotaga.
Furthermore, the matai said if the $2,000 was not enough for the monotaga then the village should have asked Lafaitele to give a larger amount.
“But they didn’t they accepted it,” he said.
Justice Vaai then asked the witness if the fund would satisfy the monotaga for the village.
Safiu replied yes.
On Monday several matai supporting the claim from Aliimalemanu took the stand to oppose the claim from Lafaitele.
According to the matai, there was no $2,000 presented by the former M.P.
They also denied any other service rendered by Lafaitele to the village.
Villagers of Neiafu crowded the courtroom as the village stand divided over the dispute from the politicians.
Lafaitele was first elected to Parliament in 2016. He previously served as the Associate Minister for the Ministry of Finance and Associate Minister of Police, Prisons, Fire and Emergency Services before losing his seat in 2016.
The matter has been adjourned for lawyers to file submissions on Friday.