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Saulo defends herself against ‘birther’ accusations

Tualauta faipule-elect Florence Saulo says she is surprised at the move by House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale to investigate her eligibility as a member of the House after the Appellate Division of the High Court dismissed the lawsuit against her and Chief Election Officer Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono brought on by two unsuccessful candidates in the Tualauta House race.

Savali confirmed to Le Lali/Samoa News last week that he had requested that the Fono’s legal counsel open an investigation into the eligibility of Saulo, saying that the outcome of the Appellate case has raised some issues that need to be looked into and as current House Speaker he has the authority to conduct such a review prior to the swearing in of the new members on Jan. 3, 2013.

However, he said the decision should not be rushed into over this matter but a legal opinion and legal recommendations by the Fono legal counsel is needed.

Unsuccessful candidates in the race— Lucia Bartley and Esther Wall— had filed in November a complaint against Soliai and Saulo, alleging among other things, that Saulo was born in Samoa and failed to produce a birth certificate in order to qualify for the race, and therefore is ineligible.

Petitioners claimed that Soliai committed “election fraud” under provisions of local election law by failing to require Saulo to produce a birth certificate, like all other candidates.

The pair further allege “ballot irregularities” because the ballot failed to state that the elector shall not vote for more than the number of seats available or the number of candidates listed, where such number is less than the seats available. (Tualauta has two seats in the House).

The appellant judges, however, said there is no evidence that the petitioners had challenged the eligibility of Saulo as well as the ballot language, prior to the Nov. 6 general election. Additionally, there is “no evidence of specific electors verifying their votes were affected” by the ballot language.

Instead, said the judges, the petitioners filed their challenge to the Appellate Division, seven days after the election. The court granted the dismissal motion filed by respondents Soliai and Saulo. (See Samoa News edition of Dec. 15 for more details on the court decision.)

In a statement over the weekend through her attorney Marcellus T. Uiagalelei, Saulo said she is surprised with Savali’s decision to investigate her House eligibility given that the court had dismissed the suit by Wall and Bartley.

“ I had thought the matter settled since they (Bartley and Wall) were unable to offer any convincing and irrefutable proof that I am not a US National. However, despite the High Court’s ruling, it appears that the reckless and malicious allegations by Wall and Bartley will have lasting consequences that I must continue to defend against,” she said.

“When I made the decision to run for Office, I never expected it to be a cause of so much animosity. All I wanted to do was to serve the people of Tualauta and American Samoa as I have always done throughout the years,” she said. “ I thought that being a member of the Fono would allow me to do more for them, and as one of their Representatives I would be in a better position to help fix what I believed to be some of the problems.”

In her three page media statement, Saulo declared that, “I AM A US NATIONAL. I was born in the village of Lauli’i, American Samoa on August 20, 1963. My parents were Methodist missionaries and church ministers who were called to do the Lord’s work at the Lauli’i Methodist parish at the time of my birth.”

“My birth is recorded with the Office of Vital Statistics and I have a certified, official, American Samoa birth certificate to prove it,” she said. “I also have a United States passport listing my place of birth and granting me US National status based on my place of birth.”

She also said that neither Bartley nor Wall has presented anything that proves she was born in Independent Samoa as they claimed and that the pair has nothing to back their accusations.

“Sadly, rumors and fabrications are sometimes enough to convince some people. But what is even sadder is that the same false stories can lead to persecution and even harassment. History records such an event as the ‘Salem Witch Trials’,” she said.

“Despite the falsehoods leveled against me by Bartley and Wall and the pain that it has caused me, my heart goes out to those who are from the Independent State of Samoa,” she said.

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