Court Sets Strict Timeline to Hear Electoral Challenges

The Afega village mayor, Taliaoa Viliamu and Government representative Puna Kelekolio (in green) who are respondents in one of the electoral challenges. 

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 02 NOVEMBER 2020: Supreme Court Judge, Justice Mata Tuatagaloa has laid down a strict timeline for all 20 electoral challenges to be heard.

She brushed off a proposal by the office of the Attorney General regarding a time frame for these matters.

“The timeline is going to be given by the Court, and the Court will be very strict because, given the law, the Court has to decide within 20 working days, so the timeline is going to be proposed by the Court,” said Justice Tuatagaloa.

She also informed the parties that after this week, the Court has only three working weeks to decide on these matters.

She made an order that all applications must be filed and served by 12.00pm Thursday this week before the Court’s Call Over on Friday to determine the dates for hearing.

Should a respondent be named
One of the matters mentioned involved the sitting Member of Parliament, Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tu’uau against a former MP Lafaitele Patrick Leiataualesa.

Counsel Leota Tima Leavai for Lafaitele tried unsuccessfully not to mention her clients name during court proceedings.

“This is a disqualified candidate. Isn’t it appropriate the candidate be joined as a party and named as a respondent like other applications that have been filed,” asked Justice Tuatagaloa.

She pointed out that all other applications have named a disqualified candidate but Leota said she was following the wordings of the law.

“Yes, but if you are mindful of the Court of Appeal decision where parties interest will be affected by any matters that is before the Court,” she said.

She also reminded Leota of the Court of Appeal rules that people should be named as a joined party to a matter.

The Attorney General counsel agreed with Justice Tuatagaloa that the disqualified candidate  must be joined and served with the application.

Leota remained adamant not to mention her clients name and Justice Tuatagaloa speaking in Samoan said “Lafaitele Patrick, i le fa’aiuga o le aso lenei, o galuega e tatau ona tu’uina mai uma tali i le Electoral Commission, a Lafaitele i le Aso Tofi ile itula e 1200.”

Tautua Samoa disqualified candidate, Su’a Sam Su’a (right) leaving court with lawyer Alex Su’a.

Evasive respondents
Another issue raised by counsel Unasa Iuni Sapolu was the difficulty of serving the Vaitele village mayor, Toī Sakalia Ioane Tautuave.

She told the Court they have been trying to find him to serve his documents but could not.

Justice Tuatagaloa made the order for the service to be effective today and Unasa acknowledged the judge’s decision.

The Afega village mayor, Taliaoa Viliamu and Government representative Puna Kelekolio  were also called before the Court and confirmed that have already been served.

Justice Tuatagaloa told them that they need to file a response to the challenge and serve it on the challengers by Thursday.

Overall, respondents must be served at the end of business today. All applications must be filed by 12.00pm Thursday and the Court’s Call Over is scheduled for Friday at 1000am.

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