Court gives reasons for disqualifying former M.P's petition

The Supreme Court has provided its reasons for denying a late application from a former Member of Parliament to contest the seat of Vaimaugana No. 1 under an alternate matai title.

The motion was filed by the former M.P. for Vaisigano No. 1, Magailefua Maposua Gafoaleata, who challenged the Electoral Commissioner’s decision to reject his attempt to nominate under his Maposua title. 

His lawyer, Leota Tima Leavai, filed the motion outside the time required for electoral petitions to be lodged. 

She had made an application for an extension of time to file the petition on 6 November. 

But Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke ruled against the application because it had not meet the time requirements.

During the election nomination period on 23 October, the former M.P. had filed his nomination under his titles Maposua and Magailefua of Laulii. 

According to an affidavit filed in support of his motion, the Electoral Commissioner through Assistant Electoral Commissioner, Faumui Daryl Mapu, rejected his nomination under his Maposua title.

Howeve, the Office of the Electoral Commission had accepted the candidate's nomination filed under the Magailefua title.

When the matter was called on 18 November, the former M.P. conceded he had not rendered monotaga (service to the village) under his title Magailefua. 

The court then rejected the application for an extension of time, allowing him to compete as a candidate under his Magailefua title.

His opponent, Fuatimau Maumea Leniu, initially filed a petition against the former M.P. challenging the approval of his candidacy under his Magailefua title. 

In their decision, Justice Nelson and Justice Clarke referred to section 47(3) of the Electoral Act in their judgement that Parliament intended time to be of the essence in determining electoral petitions. 

Furthermore, the Supreme Court Judges pointed out that the law called for there to be finality on the matter. 

“There is no provision whereby the court is given discretion to extend any of the time limitations prescribed,” the court ruled. 

“The time limits are clear and unambiguous and as noted in our 19 November 2020 ruling Parliament is very clear in what it provides by the [Electoral Act] provisions," the court ruling notes.

The court also found it had no jurisdiction to extend time in such matters.

The court also noted that despite Magailefua being advised on 23 October of the decision of the Electoral Commissioner, he did nothing until two weeks later when his lawyer filed his motion. 

The court pointed out that the motion was clearly well out of time.

“Even if there were jurisdiction we would not be inclined to grant an extension,” Justice Nelson and Justice Clarke concluded. 

“The second respondent has been most dilatory (slow to act) in pursuit of his remedies. 

“The argument by counsel for the second respondent that the court retains a power to extend based on authorities relating to leave to extend time for filing criminal appeals cannot succeed. 

“This is an entirely different context and exists where the court has been expressly conferred the power to extend time beyond the designated statutory time limit…” 

In addition, the court was satisfied there were no reasonable grounds for the delay and that in the interest of justice such extensions must not be granted. 

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