Court settles brotherly dispute
The Supreme Court has dismissed a petition by the Associate Minister for the Ministry of Public Enterprises, Tuifa’asisina Misa Lisati, seeking to stop his brother, Aiolupotea Toni Leleisiuao, from running for Parliament.
Aiolupotea had his nomination approved by the Electoral Commissioner last month to contest the Palauli No. 3 seat, which is currently occupied by his older brother. Tuifa’asisina in turn took the matter to court.
Tuifa’asisina’s second petition against Mata’afa Fa’avae, another candidate was also dismissed by the court.
The electoral petitions against Aiolupotea and Mata’afa related to their claims no monotaga (service) rendered by the Chiefs of Palauli III constituency.
Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai said on Friday: “[Tuifa’asisina] filed two motions to disqualify two candidates from contesting the Palauli No. 3 constituency in the 2021 general elections and they were heard separately.
“The judgement will deal with both cases.
“The applicant’s two motions to disqualify two candidates Aiolupotea Toni and Mata’afa Fa’avae are dismissed.”
Justice Lesatele also ordered the Associate Minister to pay $1,500 to each of the respondents.
In court, two weeks ago Tuifa’asisina gave evidence and disputed claims that his brother has always rendered monotaga to the village of Vailoa Palauli.
According to the M.P., it was only in 2019 that he arranged a meeting with the elders to present a $2,000 tala from Aiolupotea to resume his monotaga in the village.
He also denied claims he had plans to move to New Zealand with his wife because he was sick.
Tuifa’asisina explained that his wife is in New Zealand to help one of their children who is attending university in the country. Fuimaono Sarona Ponifasio, acting for Aiolupotea, put it to Tuifa’asisina that a matai from their family in Vailoa, Tuifa’asisina Iakopo, is rendering monotaga on behalf of his brother.
Tuifa’asisina said no.
During cross examination, Fuimaono asked Tuifa’asisina if he was present during a village meeting in July where the village council unanimously supported the candidacy of Aiolupotea.
In response the M.P. said that he was and was asked to leave the meeting while the village discussed the matter.
“In that meeting, no one questioned the monotaga of Aiolupotea, is that correct?” asked the lawyer.
The M.P. replied that he was not aware because he did not sit in the meeting.
It was also put to the M.P. that after the meeting, the village then accompanied Aiolupotea to the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) where he processed his registration.
The lawyer added that following those events, he visited his brother’s home at Vaivase and expressed his discontent about the turn of events.
The M.P. said he agreed.
Fuimaono further put it to the M.P. that this was the reason why he brought the proceedings against his brother because he no longer had the support of the village.
In response, Tuifa’asisina insisted that Aiolupotea has not rendered his monotaga.
“The village also doesn’t want you to become their M.P.,” the lawyer said.
The M.P. replied that not all of the villagers were present during the meeting.
In the hearing of Mata’afa Fa’avae, a book said to contain the records of those who render service to the village was brought under scrutiny.
The record is kept by a matai, Autagavaia Mu, who said he is the village secretary.
The existence of the book was brought to the centre of proceedings when Tuifa’asisina claimed that Mata’afa Fa’avae did not meet the three-year monotaga requirement for candidates.
Tuifa’asisina together with Autagavaia Mu relied on the book’s contents to argue that Mata’afa didn’t render monotaga because there were no records of it in the book.
But lawyer Muriel Lui, acting on behalf of Mata’afa Fa’avae, had questioned the legitimacy of the book.
Ms. Lui queried Tuifa’asisina if the book was something that he and Autagavaia produced for the purpose of the proceedings.
Tuifa’asisina denied this saying that the book is the official master roll of those that render monotaga in the village.
The lawyer then put it to the M.P. that only he and Autagavaia were the only people aware of the existence of the book, and were relying on it to make their case that Mata’afa doesn’t qualify.
She said that it was the evidence of other matai from the village that no such book from the village recorded monotaga contributions.
Continuing her submission, the lawyer told the M.P. that it only he and Autagavaia deny Mata’afa did not render monotaga despite other matai from the same village contending otherwise.
Ms. Lui argued Mata’afa Fa’avae’s brother, who resides in the village, performs his monotaga on his behalf.
In response, Tuifa’asisina said he believed in the book’s authenticity and that it was essential to record the monotaga records of those from the village.
He further argued that Mata’afa Fa’avae lives in Hawaii and travels back and forth to Samoa.
Furthermore, he said that Mata’afa did not meet the monotaga requirement of three consecutive years demanded by the electoral law of candidates seeking to qualify for election.
But Ms. Lui put it to the M.P. that they created the book solely to rely on their case to disqualify Mata’afa and that the village doesn’t have a book for its monotaga.
She further put it to Tuifa’asisina that the book was just created just prior to the trial and there was evidence that only one pen was used to record the monotaga accounts recorded from 2015 to 2020.