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Petitioner Confirms HRPP Chairman Giving $500 tala

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 21 APRIL 2023: The petitioner in the election petition against the Vaimauga 3 Member of Parliament, Lautimuia Uelese Vaai, has confirmed in Court that the Chairman of the Human Rights Protection Party Fuimaono Te’o, gave $500 tala to his village of Matautu.

Samau testified in Court yesterday that on 2 February 2023, several matai’s of his village of Matautu-Apia accompanied him to the HRPP headquarters at Petesa, Mulinuu to inform the party of his wish to compete in the by-election under the HRPP flag.

It was during this event that Fuimaono Te’o gave Samau’s village $500 referring to it as an aspect of Samoan culture -“o tu ma aga a Samoa.”

Lautimuia’s lawyer Lagaaia Fetu Lagaaia asked Samau if any money exchanged between HRPP and his village to which Samau said “yes”.

“The HRPP Chairman Fuimaono Te’o gave $500 to the village,” said Samau.

Asked if this was an aspect of electioneering –“tu ma aga faapalota or or an aspect of Samoan culture – tu ma aga faa-Samoa. Samau replied it had both –“o aga faapalota ae iai foi ma le aganuu i le va fealoa’i.”

The $500 is part of the bribery allegations filed by Lautimuia against Fuimaono Te’o.

Petitioner & HRPP Secretary denied giving $100 to voters

During cross examination, Samau confirmed that he met with Talia Laloata Peika and Masaga Kennech on the 23 February 2023 and not 20 February as in the two witnesses evidence the day before.

“I remember it was the 23rd because that was the day after pre-polling and the day before the by-election,” said Samau.

Samau admitted meeting with Talia and Kennech at his house at Vaivase-uta but denied inviting them to his house.

He said on the 23 February 2023, he called his cousin Punouali’i Fetulima Kopelani at Magiagi after he heard of differences between his family members that stemmed from the pre-polling results.

“I spoke with Fetulima then I heard a different voice saying “ou te lei vaai lava ia Samau, then he turned off his phone,” said Samau.

However, a few minutes later, Talia and Kennech turned up at his house and told him that they were sent by Punouali’i.

As they talked, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi arrived and joined the conversation. It was during this conversation that Lealailepule allegedly gave Talia and Kennech $100 each which is central to the bribery allegations against Samau and Lealailepule.

Both confirmed everything in Talia and Kennech’s evidence from their meeting, as well as the presence of Fepuleai Atila Ropati and Lealailepule dropping them off at a taxi stand except for the $100.

Lealailepule who has been an MP for 10 years said he is very much aware of the consequences of giving money to voters and he was not risking anything.

Lealailepule gave evidence via audio/video link from New Zealand.

The case continues today with the lawyers final submissions.