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Ousted Samoa opposition claims bribery

Friday 11 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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APIA – The losing Opposition Tautua Samoa Party leader Palusalue Fa’apo has compared his party’s loss at last Fridays polls to a “tropical cyclone”.

Finally speaking to the media days after the “shocking results” for the opposition, Palusalue blamed the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) for “hijacking voters through treating and bribing.”

According to Talamua News, Palusalue, who lost his own seat in parliament, was visibly agitated and did not stay to the end of the press conference.

He told the media that the election result had shocked his party.

“I tell you, the election result is like a devastating cyclone due to the impact of treating through money and food,” said Palusalue, “and that really affected us.”

He stated that HRPP has committed a crime through bribing the voters and it is certain election petitions are on the way.

“I can tell you there was a lot of bribery during the elections,” he said.

“There was a lot of money that had been floated around. It was the use of money where the election result was determined. That’s where it went wrong.”

Palusalue would not single out any candidate in particular but he said a number of wealthy candidates used their cash to lure voters.

He said there would be a lot of petitions in court and that’s where everything would be revealed.

The Tautua Samoa entered the last Parliamentary sitting with 13 members.

“We now have a one state party, and I hope the government will exercise its power and bend the rules to acknowledge the four members of the opposition in parliament, so the opposition could still be recognised as a party in parliament,” said Palusalue.

The law requires a party to have at least eight members to be recognised as an opposition by parliament. As it stands today, the Tautua Party only has three members in parliament.

“The truth is I’m extremely disappointed. As a party, the result is not what we expected and we are very sad,” he said.

Palusalue said he was more disappointed for Samoa as the country now no longer has an opposing voice in parliament.

“Without an opposition, we are now a one party state,” he said.

“In any democracy, there has to be an opposition party. In my opinion, the number of members should be irrelevant. There must still be a recognised opposition party.”

The former opposition’s shadow minister of finance, Afualo Dr Wood Salele, said he believed if HRPP had not “hijacked the voting” the result would have come out differently.

Afualo said some of the voters were given a carton of chicken in return for their votes.

“This is a dark day in the history of Samoa politics, and if a voter turned due to bribery, then they will realise what they have done but it will be too late,” said Afualo who lost to HRRP candidate To’omata Aki.

Asked what evidence they have, Afualo said the number of “election petitions in Court is proof”.

Asked if he was lodging a petition himself, Afualo said “time will tell”.

Despite their devastating loss, “Tautua Samoa’s light will remain shining forever and we will continue to lend our support to our parliamentary members,” said Afualo.

The opposition also used the press conference to apologise to the country that they will not be able to deliver what they had promised to do should they have won the election.

“We did our best but the country did not accept it,” said Palusalue.

Palusalue said HRPP almost got all the seats and it was something that was hard for them to accept, especially the international perspective on a one state parliament.

However, Tautua Samoa remains strong and their executive will continue to strategise and prepare a plan for the next election.

“We may not be here then, but others will be here to continue Tautua’s conviction.”

The three opposition MP’s for Tautua Samoa – Aeau Peniamina Leavaiseeta, Ili Setefano Taateo Tafili and Olo Fiti Afoa Vaai – will have to do battle for Tautua Samoa in parliament, and despite their number, they are ready to face whatever is awaiting them, Palusalue said.

“I believe that amongst the three of us, we can handle HRPP,” said Olo Fiti.

“We have a game plan in place but will not reveal it yet,” said Aeau.

He said he accepts that “the election is over, the country has spoken, the results in, and we accept that, and what we need to do now, is concentrate on parliament, the reason why the voters put them there”.

New opposition MP Ili Setefano who defeated veteran MP Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua who had served as speaker and as a minister for the HRPP government said the battle had been hard.

He believes that his win was due not only to the long time spent in preparation, but the district’s belief that Tolofuaivalelei has held the seat long enough and it was time for change.

“That was why they did not mind much which political party I support,” said Ili.

Tautua also claim new MP Pauli Ivan Williams, who competed as an independent as their member.

The businessman and skipper of the Tolotolo o Tama Uli fautasi racing boat crew from Salelologa defeated former financial secretary and consultant Sili Epa Tuioti after the special votes were counted.

Pauli did not attend the press conference, but Tautua claimed that he is the fourth Tautua Samoa MP.

The question of leadership of the party came up during the press conference, however, Aeau said, it is too early to discuss that. - Talamua