Salega No. 1 bribery case concludes
An electoral legal challenge over the results of the Salega No. 1 seat concluded on Wednesday afternoon, as lawyers wrapped up closing submissions in a case centred on two allegations of bribery.
Tautua Samoa party leader, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele petitioned the victorious candidate and Member-elect for the seat, Fepuleai Faasavalu Faimata
Fepuleai is accused of giving money to the Methodist church youth group of the Samata-tai village and the women’s fellowship group in a donation channeled through the group Friends4Fiame.
Lawyer Tufuga Fagaloa Tufuga submitted in court that the monetary gift was a bribe that enticed the villagers to vote for Fepuleai.
He drew the inference that Fepuleai attending a church service on Good Friday established a connection between the candidate and the Friends4Fiame group.
But Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa queried the lawyer to cite direct evidence confirming that the group was acting as an agent for Fepuleai.
She referred to evidence given by Tauiliili Alise Stunnenberg saying that the money in question came out of their own pockets and not from Fepuleai.
Tufuga said that the reason why Fepuleai attended the church service where the money was dispensed was for the purposes of bribery.
He said that swinging votes was the motive behind the gift giving, relying on the elected M.P.’s presence in court service to support his allegation.
Justice Tuatagaloa asked the lawyer to cite the law where it says that attending a church service is an act of bribery.
She was reminded not to generalise claims but to point to specific evidence in support of the allegations.
Friends4Fiame gave $500 to the Samata-uta Methodist church youth group and $2000 to the women’s fellowship group as a gift for their traditional presentation (sua) given to Fiame.
The second allegation against Fepuleai is a $2000 gift made by the Fa’atuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party to the Salega No. 1 constituency during their roadshow.
In her submissions, Muriel Lui, acting for Fepuleai, said the allegations against her client have not been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
She outlined the elements that the petitioner should have satisfied to find her client guilty and said that the arguments brought before the court fell short of the standard.
Ms. Lui said that there has been no evidence before the Court to prove that the Friends4Fiame were appointed agents for Fepuleai because he does not know the members of the group.
She submitted that the petitioner is relying solely on the fact that the money was given to the church close to the election period but as proof it was suspicious in lieu of hard evidence.
Ms. Lui insisted the $2000 given to the district wasin return to the tradition and customs in the Samoan culture.
Justice Tuatagaloa and Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma have reserved their decision on the electoral challenge.