By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA-10 NOVEMBER 2020: The monotaga status of Alataua West former Member of Parliament and candidate for next year’s general election, Lafaitele Patrick was confirmed by 5 witnesses, but not without contradicting some of the evidence in Court today.
Lafaitele is the respondent in the electoral challenge by the sitting MP for Alataua West Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tu’uau.
The MP is challenging Lafaitele’s eligibility as a candidate based on his monotaga and residency status.
According to Ali’imalemanu, Lafaitele does not render service – monotaga to the village and he does not meet the residency criteria because he lived abroad for sometime.
All five witnesses for the respondent testified that Lafaitele does render service but differed when it came to proving $2000 as Lafaitele’s monotaga presented personally to the Alii ma Faipule during a meeting.
In 2015 before the general election of 2016, Lafaitele gave $2000 to the Alii ma Faipule of Neiafu as his monotaga fa’aauau.
When asked to clarify what a monotaga fa’aauaua means, all witnesses agreed that based on the $2000 contributed, whatever contribution needed from Lafaitele, is covered in the $2000.
The question put to them was how they knew it was Lafaitele who handed the money over to the Alii ma Faipule.
Two of the witnesses claimed Lafaitele was present at the meeting and he personally handed the money over, while the others said it was the late Lafaitele Elia who presented the money on behalf of his son Lafaitele Patrick.
The witnesses also explained that the monotaga is the same as tautua which also include donations of fine mats, contribution to a village taalolo, food and cartons of fish.
It was noted in Court that the village practice where money or lafoga are due, it goes into the village accounts but in this case, the Alii ma Faipule instead distributed the money in portions for the senior matais present at the meeting.
This prompted counsel for the challenger, Leota Tima Leavai to say that if the money was distributed, then how would they justify Lafaitele’s monotaga fa’aauau.
Witness Tafola Eli said that was up to the Alii ma Faipule but the fact remains that Lafaitele had presented a monotaga of $2000 to serve his purposes in the village.
Another witness Uila Tavita said at one meeting where contribution of $50 was collected, the village secretary then affirmed that every matai had contributed.
“If Lafaitele had not contributed, the Secretary should have informed us but I took it that the $2000 was counted too,” said Uila.
Presiding Judge, Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai intervened and pointed out whether the $2000 was presented sometime close to the 2016 general election to which the witness said “yes.”
Did Lafaitele return to the village after he lost in the 2016 general election and the witness said “no.”
Justice Lesatele also asked Uila if Lafaitele had contributed again after the 2016 general election, and Uila said no.
Counsels will make submission to wrap up their arguments on Friday