High Court dismisses Save & Sandra challenge appeal
The Appellate Division of the High Court yesterday dismissed the petition by candidate for governor Save Liuato Tuitele and candidate for lieutenant governor Sandra King Young, who appealed a decision by the chief election officer denying their challenge of the eligibility of four other candidates in the gubernatorial race.
The challenged candidates are candidates for governor Lolo Letalu Matalasi Moliga and Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau and candidates for lieutenant governor Le’i Sonny Thompson and Taufete’e John Faumuina.
The main gist of the challenge is these candidates didn’t resign from their government jobs prior to active campaigning, citing ASCA 4.0102 subsection (f).
“The issue for this appeal is whether ASCA 4.0102(f) establishes qualifications or eligibility requirements for gubernatorial candidates,” according to the 7-page appellate decision released before 4 p.m. yesterday.
“We hold it does not and will dismiss the petition,” the decision said at the outset of the ruling, which was signed by Chief Justice Michael Kruse, Associate Justice John L. Ward II, Chief Associate Judge Logoai Siaki and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr. This is the same panel that heard oral arguments on Tuesday.
On its face 4.0102(f) does not clearly establish qualifications of candidates subject to determination by the chief election officer, the decision states and noted that this statute does not mention “qualification(s)” or “eligibility” at all.
According to the judges, this stands in contrast to other subsections of ASCA 4.0102 in which the phrase “not eligible” was specifically included in each of the subsections (c), (d), and (e).
The fact that certain subsections of ASCA 4.0102 explicitly state that failure to comply results in a candidate’s ineligibility for the office of governor or lieutenant governor, while subsection (f) “is silent, suggests that the Legislature did not intend for a violation of ASCA 4.0201(f) to result in ineligibility.”
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Both the language used by the Legislature and the legislative history of ASCA 4.0201 strongly indicate that subsection (f) “was intended to prohibit certain activities of gubernatorial candidates, and not to establish additional qualification or eligibility requirements,” the judges pointed out.
They also say that the “administrative authority for enforcing subsection (f) appears to have been delegated to the director of Human Resources.”
“As a consequence, an asserted violation of this subsection is not a valid cause for a registered elector to challenge the right of an individual to be a candidate for governor or lieutenant governor,” the judges said.
“Petitioners have failed to assert valid legal reasons for challenging the qualifications of the ‘Parties in Interest’ to be such candidates, the petition is dismissed,” the judges concluded. (The parties in interest are the challenged candidates.)
Responding to Samoa News questions after 4:30 p.m. yesterday, Chief Election Officer Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono said he has no announcement at this point regarding the certification of gubernatorial candidates and the printing of ballots until he is officially served or receives the appellate court’s decision.
He said he waited until 4 p.m. and he didn’t receive any official notice so he left the office. Soliai said as soon as the official decision is received and reviewed, he will make an official announcement through the news media.
Samoa News will report in tomorrow’s edition on additional information from the court decision as well as any new updates from the Election Office regarding the gubernatorial race.