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Once again, Manu’a District #2 senate seat in dispute

reporters@samoanews.com

The battle over the senatorial seat for Manu’a District #2 is now in the hands of Samoan Affairs Secretary Lefiti Pese Atiulagi, who has the responsibility of submitting to the Senate President’s Office the name of the next senator, prior to 12noon on Jan. 3, 2013 when the new Legislature will be sworn in to office.

Under local law as well as the constitution, it’s the duty of the ‘fa’alupega’, or County Chief to certify the decision by the county and then submit it to the Secretary of Samoan Affairs.

Samoa News reported Monday this week that traditional leaders of Manu’a District #2— which is compromised of Ofu and Olosega/Sili — met last Friday and selected out-going ASG Budget and Planning Office director Malemo Tausaga as its next senator. 

Malemo also confirmed his selection when he was contacted over the weekend, as well as the fact that former House Vice Speaker Laolagi S. Vaeao had put in his name as candidate.

However, at least two traditional leaders say that the final decision was not made, because leaders of Ofu were not in attendance in accordance with the law and constitution that leaders of all villages in the county must attend the selection process.

A second meeting was then held late Wednesday afternoon at Le’i’s Guest House on Tutuila. (The first meeting was held on Olosega).

Contacted yesterday morning for the outcome of the meeting on Tutuila, Laolagi confirmed that he was selected as the next senator during the Wednesday meeting, which was attended by — among others — traditional leaders, Manu’a District Governor Misaalefua J. Hudson, out-going Sen. Velega Savali Jr., Le’i Sonny Thompson, and governor-elect Lolo Matalasi Moliga, a previous senator for Manu’a District #2.

Laolagi also confirmed that Misaalefua certified his selection and the paperwork was delivered yesterday to the Samoan Affairs to be transmitted to the Senate President’s Office.

THE MEETING ON TUTUILA

The meeting was set to begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday, but reportedly no traditional leaders — including Malemo — were present from Olosega. It was then decided to delay the meeting to await the arrival of leaders of Olosega; however the meeting proceeded without them at 5:30 p.m.

Samoa News was told by another leader who attended the meeting that Misaalefua informed the gathering that Olosega leaders had been informed about the meeting.

When contacted yesterday afternoon Misaalefua said Olosega leaders were informed about the meeting in Tafuna, but none of them showed up.

Misaalefua also confirmed the outcome of the meeting — that Laolagi was selected as the next senator of Manu’a District #2 and that he, as District Governor, certified Laolagi’s selection.

Malemo, however told Samoa News yesterday morning that he and the rest of the Olosega leaders were never informed about the Wednesday meeting and he would not venture into this issue anymore, “because decisions of the county are made in the county, not outside of the county.”

He said Manu’a District #2 leaders had already made their decision last Friday and that he is the next senator. He also said his name as the next senator has already been certified by the County Chief, Puletasi Aisake, who was present at the meeting in Olosega and who has already submitted the paperwork to the Samoan Affairs Office.

It remains unclear at this point as to which name Samoan Affairs will submit to the Senate President’s Office; and, there are unconfirmed reports that two traditional leaders are looking at obtaining an attorney to review all legal issues pertaining to the selection process.

This is not the first time that District #2 ended up with two senators selected by different factions of Ofu and Olosega/Sili. During the Jan. 3, 2009 swearing in ceremony for new senators, Lolo and Velega were both present — each claiming to be the one selected for the seat.

During the lengthy debate, Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli informed everyone that then Secretary of Samoan Affairs Mauga T. Asuega had written to the Senate that no one was selected for Manu’a District #2. Galeai along with other senators in chamber also pointed out that the law and the constitution clearly state that it’s the County Chief who certifies the selection of a senator and no one else.

It was two weeks later that the issue was resolved with a meeting held at the Samoan Affairs Office, after which Velega took up the seat. Lolo at the time issued a statement saying that to keep peace and harmony within the county, he was withdrawing his name.

Samoa News reporters Fili Sagapolutele and Ausage Fausia contributed to this report.



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