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“No case to answer” – Respondent in Vaimauga 3 Electoral Petition

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 19 APRIL 2023: The Electoral Court will this morning hear ‘a no case to answer’ application in the electoral petition filed by the unsuccessful HRPP candidate against the winner of last February’s by-election for the Vaimauga 3 constituency.

Counsel for respondent, Laga’aia Fetu Laga’aia informed the Court after the first day of the hearing yesterday that he would apply for a no case to answer on the grounds that there was no particular evidence to support the allegations.

This was after the evidence of two witnesses for the petitioner, Samau Leatigagaeono Timani and the Court’s rejection of the affidavits of four other witnesses for the petitioner.

Presiding Senior Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke rejected the affidavits of four witnesses after noting that the affidavits were filed out of time and copies of the affidavits presented to the court were not sworn in.

Last week, the Electoral Court denied an application by the respondent’s lawyer, Laga’aia Fetu Laga’aia’s for an extension of time to allow two of his witnesses supporting affidavit that were filed out of time.

In rejecting the 4 affidavits yesterday, Justice Nelson said the court has to be consistent with its earlier decision on affidavits filed out of time.

Central to the petition was the allegation that the $5000 and food given by the FAST party to the Vaimauga 3 district during their roadshow in support of their candidate Lautimuia on 17 February 2023 amounted to bribery and treating.

Witness admits fa’aaloaloga is part of Samoan culture
Samau’s first witness, Theresa Coffin gave evidence that the $5000 FAST gave to the district during the roadshow was to entice voters to vote for Lautimuia.

When asked how she came to such conclusion, she said she saw what happened and heard the words said before the money was handed over.

court theresa
court theresa

Witness for the petitioner, Theresa Coffin.

She was also asked to specify the exact words said and by whom to which she pointed out the EFKS Minister, the Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa, FAST Chairman Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao and FAST Secretary Va’aaoao Alofipo.

When further pushed to identify the exact words, she said Reverend Tuanai Uesile said “ia tonu le filifiliga …… o le taulaga a le nu’u….”

She also pointed out what Fiame said “ua matou malaga mai, ua matou filifilia Lautimuia e avea ma sui o le FAST… ua iai le tomai ma le agavaa, ma e moomia e le FAST le sui lea.”

Coffin also said that in past elections, there were no campaigns but voters were allowed to exercise their rights and voted for whoever they wished.

During cross examination, Theresa was asked why she thought the $5000 was for the purpose of enticing voters and not the other money given to the village pastors and the lafo for the district orator.

She did admit that the aspect of Samoan culture of faaaloaloga is noted during big gatherings and that was the case during the roadshow.

On the allegation of treating or providing food for the gathering, Theresa said the food was brought from one of Lautimuia’s family home next to the EFKS hall where the roadshow was held.

She then concluded that it was them who prepared the food, but when she was re-examined by Samau’s lawyer Alex Su’a, she admitted that it was the village of Magiagi that provided the food.

Second witness admitted Theresa’s affidavit guided her evidence
The petitioner’s second witness, Sarona Lefu admitted she was not inside the hall where the road show was held and was unaware of what took place inside. Yet in her affidavit, she said what she saw and the things said made her believe that the whole purpose of the $5000 was to entice voters.

She also said there were only four new faces at the gathering which indicated to her that there was no representation from the other 23 villages of the Vaimauga 3district.

Sarona’s evidence was very similar to that of Theresa Coffin’s and Laga’aia pointed it out to her.

“Did you read Theresa’s affidavit?” asked Laga’aia.

“Yes,” said Sarona.

“Who gave you Theresa’s affidavit?” Laga’aia asked.

“Theresa,” said Sarona.

Application for no case to answer
After the evidence of these two witnesses, rather than calling his witnesses to give evidence, Laga’aia however informed the Court that he would apply for a ‘no case to answer’ on the grounds that there were no particular evidence to support the allegations or intention of FAST.

The court will hear the application for a ‘no case to answer’ this morning.