Rejected candidate laments one candidate race
A candidate whose hopes of contesting the next election were quashed by the Supreme Court says constituents will be left with only one candidate and no chance to exercise a democratic choice.
Paloa Louis Stowers lodged a petition to challenge the Office of the Electoral Commissioner's decision to reject his nomination for next April's election.
But the Supreme Court upheld the decision, reaffirming that he had not rendered his monotaga (service) to the village of Vaitele as is required under electoral law.
For that reason, the Associate Minister of Communications and Faleata West's incumbent M.P., Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, will go through the election unopposed.
Paola said he has come to accept the decision but believes it will have negative consequences for the electorate's democratic rights.
"I think it’s a bit harsh," he said.
"When the village’s decision came that there would be no vote and that there would only be Lealailepule, I jumped in and said it’s not right.
"Look at our neighbours.
"How are they going to express their rights and their feelings (during the elections)? The village doesn’t overrule people’s decision but they said that the village is one but it’s not, not everyone agrees and there’s no freedom and that’s why I jumped in and decided to contest as a candidate to represent whomever."
The 66-year-old said the court has made its decision and it's something he would have to live with.
"I want to acknowledge the constituency (Vaitele Uta, Vaitele Fou and Vaitele Tai) for supporting me during my case," he said.
"Unfortunately, it wasn’t what we expected. I thank all the different denominations that supported as well as the whole village of Vaitele."
According to Paloa, people should have been allowed to cast a vote in an electoral contest with more than one candidate.
"I was fighting for their rights to vote because what is now going to happen is that there will be no vote and they haven’t got [...a] choice now," he said
"I would have been the door that would enable them to vote, and people would be given the chance to decide and choose.
"But it’s very unfortunate that it didn’t go my way but that was the purpose for me was to help them out and to have their say."
Paloa maintains that he has been providing his monotaga for more than 30 years.
"I have been in the village for 30 years and throughout then I’ve contributed so much for my monotaga and being of service to the village," he said.
"The court’s decision was made because they said that I [haven't rendered any...] monotaga but if you look at it, where’s all my monotaga gone to?
"I was serving the village right from the start in 1999.
"I don’t know why they took up the mayor that had just started last year and disregarded the old former mayor."
The former mayor of Vaitele from 2007 to 2019, Tauolo Inuvaisisi Grey testified in court that Paloa had been serving the village since he became chief in 1999.
But the current mayor, Toi Sakaria Taituave, also testified that if Paloa had contributed a monotaga, then they would have granted his request but he did not.