Translated from FaaSamoa. The opposition Human Rights Protection Party are taking the ruling Faatuatua i Le Atua Samoa ua Tasi party to Court over allegations of bribery ahead of the recent Vaimauga 3 by-election.
However the FAST party Chairman Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt says the cultural exchange which can be publicly viewed on a Facebook live, is a part of custom and tradition similar to the Road Shows already tested and allowed by the Supreme Court in recent decisions.
However, according to Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, money of up to $5,000 tala handed over to members of the community during a FAST party campaign meeting just days before the by-election, constitutes bribery.
A cultural exchange took place at the end of the FAST party meeting with Vaimauga 3 meeting ahead of the by-election.
The meeting was streamed live on the FAST party page where Vaimauga 3 district matai are seen handing over gifts of fine mats and envelopes (teutusi) to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers who attended. In return, a monetary gift was given by FAST to the village matai.
Tuilaepa says the act is one of bribery to buy votes. “They have done this without regard or fear of the Law,” said Tuilaepa.
“There was once a Speaker of the House who lost his seat over a $10 note given out, and a senior Minister who lost his seat for handing over $40 tala,” said Tuilaepa.
“But this $5,000 tala is definitely done in order to buy votes,” added the former Prime Minister who has hung on to the leadership of the HRPP despite a two-year ban from Parliament.
Lautimuia Afoa Uelese Vaai of the FAST party won the Vaimauga 3 by-election by a margin of 449 votes. Lautimuia won 1531 votes out of the 2737 votes casted representing 56% of voters.
The HRPP candidate Samau Solitamalii Timani won 1,082 votes representing 40% of all votes casted.
Samoa’s newest MP was sworn in this morning in a ceremony well attended by friends and family as well as members of the Constituency.