By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – 05 OCTOBER 2020: Retired Judge Lesatele Rapi Vaai is back as a Judge of the Supreme Court. He was sworn in by the Head of State, Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aleto’a Sualauvi 11 today and will hear the electoral challenges now before the court.
Justice Lesatele is currently serving as a Judge for the Court of Appeal in Nauru, but since the lockdown, he has not been able to return to Nauru.
The Acting Chief, Justice Mata Tuatagaloa called on his assistance with the 20 electoral petitions before the Supreme Court.
“I accepted the request and I am happy to serve the Government again,” said Lesatele.
The Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Moliei Vaai said Lesatele’s contract is for 12 months.
“He will not only be presiding over the electoral challenges but on other matters if needed,” said Moliei.
She said having Lesatele on-board will help with the shortage of Court Judges especially with the Chief Justice on medical leave in New Zealand.
Nauru contract extended
Justice Lesatele retired from Samoa’s Supreme Court in 2017 and took up work with the Nauru Government’s Judiciary.
When asked if his Nauru contract be affected by his new role here he said no.
“My contracted will not be affected but has been extended to 3 years, and we are using the internet for communication with my work,” he said.
Tight schedule to hear Electoral challenges
Under the law, 20 working days is allocated to hear any electoral petitions or challenges but according to Justice Lesatele, it’s a very tight schedule.
“If there is not extension then the presiding Judges will have to deliver only the conclusion of decision due to not enough time to write the whole decision with reasons,” he said.
Moliei said if it comes down to that, then perhaps an extension is the solution.
In swearing in Lesatele this morning, the Head of State Tuimalealiifano congratulated Justice Lesatele and wished him the best in his latest assignment.