Electoral Petition Between Caretaker Minister of Education and FAST Candidate Proceeds


0Tuesday 20 July 2021 Mulinuu Apia Samoa. An agreement to withdraw an electoral petition and counter-petition between FAST candidate Papalii Panoa Tavita Moala and Caretaker Minister of Education, Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio has fallen through.

When the matter was called last Monday, both parties made known their intention to withdraw and settle out of court.

Sagaga 1 constituency matai in Court Monday 12th July 2021

The announcement was well received by constituency matai who clapped and cheered in Court last week, elated the matter would be settled out of Court.

The intended agreement, was for Loau to resign as the elected MP for Sagaga 4, and allow the Consituency to return to the polls. Papalii Panoa had also announced at the time that he did not intend to run in the resulting by-election.

The unusual nature of the agreement that the constituency return to the polls, with Papalii agreeing not to run – raised speculation that Loau had been asked to switch sides to FAST as a condition of Papalii’s withdrawal.

Caretaker Minister of Education Loau Keneti Sio.

Asked outside Court at the time, Loau said he was an HRPP member, and any decisions pertaining to his by-election candidacy would have to be put back to constituency members for their advice and endorsement.

Outside Court this morning, however, Papalii Panoa confirmed that yes, one of the conditions for his agreeing to withdraw, is that Loau run the by-election as a FAST candidate.

Papalii Panoa Tavita Moala speaking to the media outside Court.

When the matter was re-mentioned at 9am this morning (Tuesday) it was expected that last week’s agreement would be formalised before the Court. However, after a further 30-minute adjournment allowed by Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese and Justice Tafaoimalo Tologata Leilani Tuala-Warren, no agreement was reached and Counsels for both parties stood to convey their instructions for the case to proceed.

Leiataualesa Komisi Koria with Fetu Lagaaia are representing Papalii, while Aumua Ming Leung Wai and Lucymaria Sio-Ofoia appeared for Loau.

Speaking to the media outside court, Papalii Panoa said the only two options available to them if he would withdraw his petition and Loau were to resign, was for the two of them to not run in the resulting by-election. The other option is to proceed the case to a hearing.

Papalii Panoa said that all things considered, the option that Loau resigns, and both of them sit out the by-election was agreeable to him.

Papalii said the risk of being found guilty and having to stand down for 3 elections is a difficult reality for them to consider.

He added that if both he and Loau stood down, it would allow others from their Constituency to take up the mantle.

“It is best then, that we both sit out the by-election, as there are many other eligible candidates in our constituency (e le one le matou itumalo)”.

The preferred option for Loau having won the general election, however, is for Papalii Panoa to withdraw his petition and allow him to continue as the elected MP for their constituency.

Loau Keneti Sio was elected at the April 9th general election by a margin of 322 votes over Papalii Panoa, in a two candidate race.

Papalii Panoa made it clear, however, that to simply withdraw and give Loau the win is difficult for him to accept, because he has his party to consider.

He said although the risks are high for both of them given the stand-down period if found guilty, the best option for him given the stance of the Supreme Court, is to proceed to a hearing.

“That is my final decision, (e le toe sui lau tali),” said Papalii.

Marieta H Ilalio