Court rules in favour of Fata Meafou
Election candidate, Fata Meafou, of Afega, has been given the all clear to run in next year's General Election.
This follows a decision by the Supreme Court in his favour as he looks to occupy the Sagaga II seat in Parliament.
The ruling was handed down by Supreme Court Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai who was accompanied by Justice Leiataualesa Darryl Clarke.
Fata had challenged the decision by the Electoral Commissioner, Faimalo Mathew Lemisio, to reject his nomination based on the Village’s Mayor, Taliaoa Viliamu's refusal to endorse his candidacy.
“The Electoral Commissioner is ordered to enter the name of [Fata Meafou] as a candidate for Sagaga Constituency,” Justice Vaai said.
The second applicant, Afega's village mayor, Taliaoa Viliamu was ordered to pay $1,500 to the applicant.
In the Court last week, Taliaoa’s testimony was scrutinised. Fata, who is registered to run for public office under the banner of the Fa’atuatua ile Atua Samoa Ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) opposition party, was represented in court by Lefau Harry Schuster.
The Court heard that Afega is currently divided: there are two village councils - one in Afega Uta and one in Afega Tai.
Taliaoa, represented by Leota Tima Leavai, took the stand and testified that Fata did not render the required monotaga (service) to the village of Afega for his candidacy to be endorsed.
“[Fata Meafou] did not render any service to the village, and I’m [obeying] the law and I need to protect myself, therefore I cannot sign off on any document because there was no service rendered,” Taliaoa said.
“From the beginning of the development projects in the village, they [Fata Meafou and Chiefs of Afega Tai] did not offer any assistance.”
He also rejected claims that Fata Meafou had served the village with the construction of a seawall project in the village.
“There is no sea wall. It was just the rocks [they] piled up, but it is not a sea wall,” he said.
Taliaoa told the court that in 2012 the family of “Savea” was ousted by the village and then they created their own sub-village and called it Afega Tai, but there is no such village as Afega Tai; it is just Afega.
Under cross-examination, Taliaoa told the court the village council of which he is a part, is recognised as Afega, not Afega Tai of which Fata is a member of the village council.
Lefau questioned Taliaoa about his sworn affidavit which says an L.T.C. decision in 2014 stated that Afega Uta is recognised and acknowledged over Afega Tai as the village council.
Lefau then asked Taliaoa if he wanted to reconsider his evidence before reading out the decision of the L.T.C. cited in his affidavit.
Taliaoa replied: “No, my response is the same.”
The village mayor then read out the relevant part of the L.T.C. decision in 2014.
It does not mention that Afega Uta is the recognised village.
Taliaoa was asked which part of the decision in question refers to Afega Uta as the recognised village, but he went silent.
The defence lawyer proceeded to question Taliaoa on his duties as an appointed village mayor: to serve the people of Afega regardless of which village council they serve.
Lefau asked Taliaoa why he didn’t question the Secretary of the Afega Tai village council to confirm that Fata Meafou had rendered monotaga as required.
The query prompted an objection, but Justice Lesatele allowed the question.
“As I said, I cannot go and question [those] people,” said Taliaoa.
At the end of Taliaoa’s testimony, Justice Lesatele asked the village mayor: “If Fata Meafou had served in the [Afega] Uta village council, would you have endorsed his election nomination?”
Taliaoa said in response: “Yes, I would.”