Rejection overturned: Papalii qualifies for election

Papalii Moala Tavita will contest next year’s election, after the Supreme Court ruled on Friday to reverse a decision by the Office of the Electoral Commission to reject his nomination. 

Papalii’s victory brings the total number of Fa’atuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party candidates to 51.

When asked for a comment on the reversal on Friday outside of court, Papalii answered only briefly: “To God, I say thank you so much; I will say more later, but for now I give all the glory to God, that’s all I can say right now”. 

Supreme Court Justices Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren presided over the case. 

The decision comes after Papali'i earlier this month brought a legal challenge against the Office of the Electoral Commissioner (O.E.C.) and the Mayor of Faleula, Fetaiai Va'auli for rejecting his candidacy. 

Papali'i's submission argued that he had satisfied a three consecutive year monotaga (service) requirement from 1999 to 2001 - a pre-requisite for qualifying to nominate to stand for election. 

The candidate was greeted by supporters who offered their congratulations as he left the courtroom after the decision was handed down by Justice Vui.

During the trial earlier this month, Justice Vui had questioned the O.E.C. lawyer whether the Commissioner was aware that he allegedly endorsed another document, dated 31 July 2020, confirming Papali'is monotaga in the village of Faleula for three consecutive years.

The document was headed, "Tautinoga Tautua (Monotaga)", and included the signature of the village mayor of Faleula, Fetaia'i Va'auli, along with ten others, including a Reverend.

During cross-examination, Mr. Vaauli was given the chance to compare his signature on the document in question with his signature on two affidavits before the Court. 

He maintained that he did not sign it and suggested his signature may have been forged. 

“We have considered the evidence produced on behalf of the applicants and the respondents, including also the details of the submissions of Counsels, for which we are grateful,” Justice Vui wrote.

“We conclude as follows: (1) under the provisions of the electoral act 2019 as they currently stand, the applicant qualifies to run under his title Papalii as a candidate from the village of Faleula and territorial constituency of Sagaga no. 1 in the 2021 General Election.

“To this extent the decision of the Electoral Commissioner to reject his nomination is overturned.”

Justice Vui added that as the issues involved in the case were “very complex” and that the written reasons for their decision would be made available to counsels later on, in due course.

The court ruled that each party would bear its own legal costs, given the importance of the issues raised during the case. 

Papalii will now be contesting the seat currently held by the incumbent Member of Parliament and Minister of Education, Sports and Culture,  Loau Keneti Sio.

Papali'i was represented by lawyer, Muriel Lui while Sefo Junior Ainuu, of the Attorney General's Office, is representing the O.E.C. as first respondent. Leota Tima Leavai is the lawyer for the Faleula mayor, Fetaiai Va'auli, who is the second respondent.

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