Saleaula stands by Tuala
A high chief from Saleaula says they are "not worried" about a decision by a defeated Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) candidate to proceed with an election petition against the winner of the seat.
Le-Ati-Laufou Alofipo Manase had initially promised constituents to withdraw the petition he filed against Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio and even signed off on the deed of agreement after advising the Court.
However, he had a change of heart and declared that he wishes to go ahead with his petition last week.
Member-elect, Tuala who is also the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) candidate for Deputy Prime Minister filed an application with the Supreme Court to enforce an agreement with his rival to withdraw an election petition filed against him on Wednesday.
However, the high chief from Saleaula said they "are not worried" by Le-Ati-Laufou's decision.
Alofipo Peteli II said the village of Saleaula convened a meeting on Saturday morning, where Le-Ati-Laufou declared his decision and "explained" to the elders why he decided to continue on with his petition against Tuala.
"Laufou explained to us on Saturday the reason why he changed his mind," Alofipo Peteli told the Samoa Observer.
"[So] we are not worried because Laufou gave us his word that this will not affect Tuala's position as the elected M.P. for Gagaemauga No.1.
"His decision will not unseat Tuala and Laufou has declared his support for Tuala.
"Laufou has already given us his word and has promised us that he has accepted Tuala as the winner and will give him his full support for the next five years.
"So we understand why he's doing this and Laufou did inform all the elders about his decision on Saturday.
"According to Laufou, they just want to sort some issues with their lawyers so they can reach an agreement because Laufou changed his lawyer."
Laufou who was previously represented by lawyer Leinafo Taimalelagi is now represented by counsel Leota Tima Le'avai.
"This has been a very sensitive issue," said Alofipo Peteli.
"The thing is, we have discussed this issue so many times and we all agreed to support Tuala and as our M.P. for the next five years.
"This village of Saleaula has been supporting Tuala ever since we got the election results. We had pleaded with him [Laufou] so many times before to accept the results of the election and to refrain from filing a petition against Tuala.
"The reason why we asked him to do that was that we wanted to keep the peace and also we have already discussed that whoever wins after the election will represent our constituency."
In saying that, Alofipo acknowledged a decision by Laufou to withdraw his petition against Tuala.
"Laufou gave us his word and we understand now why he's doing it.
"But we commend him for obeying the wishes of the elders from the village and for listening to our advice. I know it has not been an easy journey for him as well, but we thank him for honoring our word and for the decision he made.
"Laufou is a boy of the land...he is a well-respected chief and we respect him.
"He gave us his word that he will support Tuala, and we respect and trust him to follow his promise and words."
The case, which is being presided over by the Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese and Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, has been adjourned to next Wednesday to allow Leota to get instructions from her client.
Tuala’s lawyer Muriel Lui, said the application seeks the Court’s indulgence to enforce the agreement between Laufou and Tuala signed two weeks ago to withdraw the petition.
“He [Laufou] has already signed the deed and he is now going back on his words,” she said.
Laufou was not present when the matter was called this week.
However, two weeks ago he told the media that he was humbled with the intervention by his constituency and has agreed there should be no election petition.
“Both sides were prepared for the case, however, we have not pushed through with it but I feel very humbled by the interference by my constituency,” said Laufou at that time.
The H.R.P.P. candidate said his village of Saleaula has been to his home and even at the Courthouse to urge him to reconsider his decision to pursue the matter in court.
“I cannot help but feel humbled before the Lord, I empathise with my constituency.
“All the best to Tuala as the representative of Gagaemauga; he has Saleaula’s support. I believe there will come a time when the Lord chooses his servants.”
The villagers of Saleaula confronted Laufou outside the Courthouse when the matter was initially called.
The elders from the village of Savai’i were critical of the defeated candidate’s failure to consider his actions and not following what they claimed were his words to discontinue the case.
Laufou had told the villagers that they cannot force him to change his mind and asked that they allow the spirit of the Lord to tell him what to do. However, the elders insisted that they wanted an answer before the parties head into the Court on that day.