The man who was unable to contest against Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in the March General Elections, was successful in the District Court yesterday.
Tu’ula Kiliri Tuitui was found not guilty of making a false declaration that he performed a monotaga for at least three years from the day of his nomination. He had pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges brought by the Office of the Electoral Commissioner.
District Court Judge, Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma delivered his decision in less than a minute, in favour of Tu’ula.
Firstly, he told the Court he did not find that there was any ambiguity in the charge.
Fepuleai concluded that the Prosecution had not proved the charge to the required standard.
“The charge is dismissed,” he added. Tu’ula was represented by his lawyer Unasa Iuni Sapolu while the Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio was the lawyer for the Office of the Electoral Commissioner.
Outside the Court, Tu’ula was emotional and surrounded by support from family and friends.
He said he was not ready to say anything yet. His lawyer Unasa had no doubt that the decision by the Judge was the right one.
“I have no doubt that this new law that kicked in late last year had a retrospective effect,” he said. “I haven’t read the decision from the Judge but going through the case, I felt that the new change in law has still got teething problems."
I think this particular rule created its own difficulties in administration.” Unasa added the Commissioner did his best but you could only do so much when the law has its weaknesses and strengths - if there are strengths. Asked for a comment, Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio said their decision to proceed with the case and others was to give justice an opportunity to take its course.
From the prosecution’s perspective, Faimalo said it was not about winning or losing a case. “It’s about giving these matters a fair opportunity before an Honorable Judge to be adjudicated through a hearing. This case and others have had that opportunity and justice has taken its course. In the end, I suppose justice wins.”
About the change in the law under which Tu’ula and others were charged, the Commissioner said it was based on the new changes made to the Electoral Act last year. “They were never tested before,” he explained.
“So this case and others have provided us with legal precedents that will guide our work going into the future. We see that as a positive coming out of these cases.” Earlier this year, Tu’ula was disqualified from contesting against the Prime Minister by the Supreme Court.
The matter that was before the Supreme Court questioned the qualifications of Tu’ula and whether he had performed a monotaga as required by law for a period of three years.
The District Court case focused on whether Tu’ula knew that the declaration he signed was in fact false, when he signed it.