Parties in Electoral Act Legal Challenge Continue Negotiations

The Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, Attorney Generals counsel, Galumalemana Noumea Loreta Teueli in discussion with petitioners lawyers Mauga Precious Chang and Fuimaono Sarona Ponifasio.

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 4 SEPTEMBER 2020: The parties to the current legal challenge of the Electoral Act have been given until next Monday to negotiate a solution to the matter.

Failing that, Justice Tafaomalo Leilani Tuala Warren will hear submissions by counsels before officially adjourning the matter.

It is the latest development following a series of meetings in Chambers and adjournments for the parties to find a resolution to the matter.

The petitioners, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio and Papali’i Panoa Moala Tavita are challenging section 156 of the Electoral Act which exempts sitting Members of parliament from rendering service – monotaga to their villages as a qualification for next years’ general elections.

The petitioners are arguing that the Act is unconstitutional, unfair and discriminatory.

The case started on Tuesday and on Wednesday, Justice Tafaomalo Leilani Tuala Warren informed both parties to resolve some of the issues raised during the hearing before the matter resumed yesterday.

However, the parties were called in chambers yesterday and the matter was later adjourned for the parties to discuss further.

Today, discussion continued between the petitioners’ lawyers, Fuimaono Sarona Ponifasio and Mauga Precious Chang and the Attorney General and her team before presenting their findings to Justice Tafaoimalo.

The matter was then adjourned to 2.00pm today “to settle an agreement reached between the parties,” according to Fuimaono.

It was also an opportunity for the Attorney General and the Electoral Commissioner to seek advice from Government.

However, when the case resumed in the afternoon, the Attorney General asked for another meeting with the petitioner’s lawyers which went on for half an hour, before meeting with Justice Tafaomalo in chambers.

After the meeting, Mauga Precious Chang then informed her client, Papalii Panoa to come back on Monday as the respondents have made a few changes to what they agreed to earlier on.

Justice Tafaoimalo then informed both parties to come up with a resolution on Monday next week. If not, then she will hear the counsels final submissions before officially adjourning the matter.

Several intending candidates for the 2021 general elections are eagerly waiting for the result of the case as it may open the door for some to qualify as candidates.


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