Candidate's nomination battle continues
The mayor for Vaitele Tai, Toi Sakaria Taituave, is adamant that a prospective election candidate from his village did not render the required monotaga (service) to run for Parliament.
Paloa Louis Stowers, a 66-year-old Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) candidate, is fighting in court the contention that his requisite nomination forms to stand for office were not filled in for valid reasons.
Paloa - one of several candidates from the political party contesting their nomination refusal - on Monday brought two sworn affidavits contending he had been rendering monotaga to the village since 1999.
But on Tuesday Toi, the current village mayor told a different story.
He said that prior to 2015 there were two Vaitele Tai village councils and he was the secretary for the “recognised village” or the one in which Matai’a (the recognised paramount chief) had served.
Only when the councils merged did he come to know of Paloa, Toi testified. Toi remained Secretary of the council after the merger.
Toi confirmed that Paloa had been bestowed with a chiefly title in 1999 and had since served the other village council of Vaitele Tai.
The matter was heard before Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Tologata Leilani Tuala-Warren.
Paloa is represented by Mauga Precious Chang.
Elemesi Schmidt is acting for the Office of the Electoral Commissioner as the first respondent in the case, while Fepuleai Patrick Fepuleai is standing for the mayor; Toi Sakaria, the second respondent.
Justice Vui pointed out there are several villages that have two village councils.
“And the issue apparently is that when one is ousted from the village, this chief opts to establish their own village council,” he said.
“In the beginning for Vaitele there were two village councils, [in general] what is your view when a Chief renders service or monotaga to the [new] village council, does that service count as a monotaga?”
Toi Sakaria said Vaitele had reconciled in 2015.
“However I believe that it depends on the reverence of the village, in terms of the chiefs that are part of the council,” he said.
“For instance, if [I leave] and establish my own village, it shouldn’t be counted because not all of the respected chiefs are present. And it should not be recognised by the Government or organisations as a village council because not all the respected high chiefs are part of the council.”
Earlier on, Toi explained that Paloa was not part of the “most important” Lands and Title Court cases which focused solely on establishing the village’s chiefly titles.
“The [L.T.C.] case in which [Paloa] is referring to is [his[ own case. The case I refer to [in my affidavit] has to do with the founding chiefs of the village,”: he said.
Mauga told Toi that Paloa attended village council meetings held in January/
But Toi adamantly denied that Paloa was present.
“And it is indicated in the minutes of our meetings for January,” Toi said.
Mauga questioned whether the chiefs who attended the meeting signed in as evidence they were present, but the village mayor said that is not how village council meetings are conducted.
Toi made it clear the reason the names of chiefs in the village were not on the minutes of the meeting was because they were not present.
Mauga questioned the witness regarding whether the village’s development fund for which $500 is required from the chiefs was ongoing.
But Toi said the deadline for the fund had passed in January and now the village has already come to a resolution on when the funds should be given to the village.
The court heard from the witness the village collaborated to determine a sole candidate for the general election.
“However [the village] were shocked that Paloa put forth his name for the general election in August and yet the village [council] had already made a decision on its candidate,” Toi said.
“There were two nominations, myself and Lealailepule [Rimoni Aiafi] however the village decided that I will not run in the general election and allow the incumbent to run again.
“We concluded to have just one nominee [for Vaitele Tai].”
He dismissed claims by Mauga the reason why the village had refused to recognise Paloa’s contribution, because of that resolution to have only one candidate.
“That is not true. We understand very well that despite the [unilateral] decision by the village council the law supersedes and we are well aware of that and if Paloa had contributed a monotaga we would have [granted] his request but he did not render service and that is the view of the village council,” Toi said.
“And yes the chiefs were not happy about his decision, because he cannot run, he did not render any [monotaga].”
Mauga put it to the witness that previous witnesses have testified that Paloa did render his monotaga, contradicting his evidence.
The former village mayor of Vaitele from 2007 to 2019, Tauolo Inuvaisisi Grey, testified that Paloa had been serving the village since he became a chief in 1999, ranging from funerals to fundraising efforts.
Toi told the court in his capacity as the high chief he bears responsibility for several aspects related to running the constituency.
“All of the time, I am the talking chief that speaks on behalf of Vaitele,” he said.
“And when we consult about the meaning of the monotaga, it has to do with appearing in the village council meetings, collaborating on social issues, giving advice as Chiefs on important matters in the village, that is monotaga in our respective view,” explained Toi.
Mauga questioned for how long Toi had been mayor.
“It’s been one year since I have been appointed the village mayor, but I have been serving the village for over ten years and I am still here conducting the same service,” he said.
However Mauga put it to the witness, there were two village councils and that he (Toi) served in another council; while Paloa served in the other village council.
“For your information, the court has reconfirmed the village council in which Matai’a served is the recognisable one and it was on 24 February 2017 [that] the Appeal Court ruled for Matai’a to go back to Vaitele, as it was in the past,” said Toi.
A decision on the case is expected on Friday.