15 Aug 2006

Samoa top leader critical of attorney general's office

3:17 pm on 15 August 2006

Samoa's Deputy Prime Minister, Misa Telefoni, has criticised the Attorney General's Office over its handling of the election petition filed against an HRPP member, Mulitalo Seali'imalietoa Siafausa Vui.

Misa has written to the Prime Minister saying that the government is potentially liable for all of Mulitalo's legal costs if negligence by the Attorney General's office leads to the Minister losing his seat.

In his letter, the deputy PM complains that a statement made by a lawyer in the Attorney General's Office implicates Mulitalo and could cost him his parliamentary seat.

During a court hearing on the petition by Su'a Rimoni Ah Chong, Daryl Clarke of the Attorney General's Office, said in his view the presentation of gifts by Mulitalo for Vaimoso village in November 2005 did not constitute an o'o.

O'o is the traditional presentation of gifts that MP's make to their districts.

Mr Clarke, representing the Electoral Commissioner, said Vaimoso was a village outside Mulitalo's constituency.

While Mr Clarke was making his submission, a note was passed to him from outside the courtroom, and he called for a recess.

During the recess the attorney held a discussion with the Electoral Commissioner and when court resumed, he asked that his earlier statements be withdrawn.