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Court Allows HRPP Secretary to Give Evidence via Video Link 

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA -13 APRIL 2023: Samoa’s Electoral Court has allowed the HRPP Secretary, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi to give evidence via audio/video link from New Zealand.

Lealailepule who is the Member of Parliament for Faleata No 3 will give evidence in the electoral petition by unsuccessful HRPP candidate, Samau Leatigagaeono Timani against Lautimuia Uelese Vaai who won the Vaimauga No 3 by-election in February.

Lautimuia’s counter petition accuses Lealailepule of two counts of bribery leading up to the by-election and Lautimuia opposed Lealailepule leaving the jurisdiction and his request to give evidence via zoom from New Zealand.

However, District Court Judge Talasa Atoa Saaga revoked the Departure Prohibition Order and allowed Lealailepule to travel last week.

In court today, Lautimuia’s lawyer, Lagaaia Fetu Lagaaia’s concern was for the interest of justice and Lealailepule who is an MP is accused of corrupt practises and needs to be physically present for the trial.

He also argued that the outcome of the trial is likely to be reported to Parliament.

However, senior Justice Vui Clarence Nelson said that it was the choice of a person whether to be present or not as long as their legal representatives are in Court to represent their client’s interests.

“The Court will not be held up because of the absence of a party,” said Justice Nelson.

He also pointed out that Lealailepule was not a candidate and has no standing in the election, but that matter will be dealt with during the trial.

Admission of supportive affidavits denied
The Court also denied Lautimuia’s application for extension of time to admit two supporting witnesses affidavits filed out of time.

When asked why the affidavits were filed out of time, Lagaaia said the two witnesses “hesitated” to make affidavits but only agreed to do so after the deadline given by the Court.

He also informed the Court that the two supporting affidavits are crucial to the counter petition, however, the Court thought differently.

The petition and counter petition hearing is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday 18 April.

The petitioner Samau has 2 witnesses for the petition and 6 for the counter petition, while the respondent Lautimuia will provide 12 witnesses for the petition and 3 for the counter petition.

The presiding judges will be Senior Justice Nelson and Justice Leitaualesa Daryl Clarke.