Monotaga book's authenticity questioned in court

A book containing the records of those who render service to Vailoa Palauli, and is kept by a matai who claims he is the village secretary, has come under scrutiny after witnesses denied its existence. 

The existence of the book has been put in the spotlight in an electoral petition filed by the Member of Parliament for Palauli East, Tuifa’asisina Misa Lisati who is claiming that rival candidate, Mata’afa Fa’avae did not meet the three-years monotaga requirement. 

Tuifa’asisina together with Autagavaia Mu – who claims he was the secretary of the village – are relying on the book’s contents to argue that Mata’afa didn’t render monotaga and there are no records of it.

However, Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma questioned the different style of handwriting in the book which he said suggests that more than one person wrote the monotaga accounts.

Autagavaia Mu had given evidence that the book was made in his capacity as the secretary for the village since 2015 to record all the matai that render monotaga in Vailoa Palauli. 

He told the Court that the red hardcover book is the official book of the village, which only he writes in to record those that perform monotaga in the village and those serving from afar.

Justice Roma then asked the matai that now resides in Salelavalu to write his name on a piece of paper.

He then asked Autagavaia why the handwriting in the book that notes the different years is different from the handwriting that penned the names of the matai. 

In response, Autagavaia maintained that it is his writing and explained that it appears different because he printed the years and used cursive writing for the names.

However, Justice Roma then put it to the matai if he accepts that the other pages of the book also contained a different style of handwriting. 

The witness replied “no your Honour” and emphasised that it was his writing. 

Justice Roma further asked Autagavaia if he accepts that there are four different handwriting styles used in the book. 

“Do you have the gift of having different handwritings,” asked the Supreme Court Judge. 

But Autagavaia, in response, again insisted that he wrote the records in the book. 

Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai also raised questions as to why the red hardcover book had 12 ripped pages inside.

In response, Autagavaia said the pages contained notes from a Land and Titles Court matter that he removed in 2015. 

Justice Vaai also asked why Tuifa’asisina Misa is the last name on the monotaga list. 

He explained that if the M.P. had rendered monotaga before 2015 under his Misa title then why was his name the last on the list of those that rendered monotaga. 

In addition he said the records indicate that no else rendered monotaga after Tuifa’asisina in the year 2015. 

Autagavaia confirmed that there was no one else that rendered monotaga since then. 

He pointed out that it is true that Tuifa’asisina had rendered monotaga before 2015 under his Misa title but continued under his Tuifa’asisina title in 2015.

Autagavaia has denied claims that he was never appointed to be a secretary of the village.

Earlier on Tuifa’asisina testified in the second petition that he filed before the Court to disqualify Mata’afa. 

Lawyer Muriel Lui, acting on behalf of Mata’afa Fa’avae, had questioned the legitimacy of the book. 

Ms. Lui queried Tuifa’asisina if the book was something that he and Autagavaia produced for the purpose of the proceedings. 

But Tuifa’asisina denied this saying that the book is the official master roll of those that render monotaga in the village. 

The lawyer then put it to the M.P. that only he and Autagavaia are the only people aware of the existence of the book, and are relying on it to say that Mata’afa doesn’t qualify. 

She said that it is the evidence of other matai from the village that there is no such book from the village that records monotaga. 

Continuing her submission, the lawyer told the M.P. that it is only them that deny Mata’afa doesn’t render monotaga when other matai from the village are saying otherwise. 

According to Ms. Lui the brother of Mata’afa Fa’avae who resides in the village performs his monotaga on his behalf.

In response, Tuifa’asisina said he believes in what is in the book and the book is needed to record monotaga of those from the village. 

He further argued that Mata’afa Fa’avae lives in Hawaii and travels back and forth to Samoa. 

Furthermore, he said that Mata’afa does not meet the monotaga requirement of three consecutive years that the electoral law demands. 

But Ms. Lui put it to the M.P. that they created the book that they rely on to disqualify Mata’afa and in fact the village doesn’t have a book for its monotaga. 

She also put it to Tuifa’asisina that the book was just created yesterday with only one pen being used to record monotaga accounts from 2015 to 2020. 

However, Tuifa’asisina denied this and said the book has been used during village meetings where Autagavaia notes down the contributions from matai.

Decisions from electoral petitions have been reserved until 27 November 2020. 

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