Supreme Court rejects claim that Tongatapu No 2 election result was result of bribery

    The Supreme Court had dismissed a petition by former Acting Prime Minister Sēmisi Sika to overturn the results of the election for Tongatapu No 2 in last November’s election.

    Dr ‘Uhilamoelangi Fasi and MP Sēmisi Sika

    Sika was a Member of the Tongan Parliament from 2010 to 2021. He is currently leader of the Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands.

    Sika alleged that ‘Uhilamoelangi Fasi won the election by bribery.

    He alleged that on or about  November 16 last year, Dr Fasi gave Siosaia ‘Ahokovi, of Haveluloto, $100; that on November 3, 2021, Dr Fasi indirectly gave groceries to members of the community police at 12 community police posts at Haveluloto; that in the first week of November 2021, Dr Fasi directly or indirectly gave Telusila Pelesikoti TP$300 or paid her electricity bill in the sum of TP$300 and that on October 7 last year Dr Fasi indirectly gave TP$400 to the steward of the Church of Tonga at Haveluloto as a gift towards a fundraising by the church members.

    Sika claimed that each instance Dr Fasi did so in order to influence the vote.

    In his summary of the case Lord Chief Justice Whitten, presiding, said  that according to the law, anybody who, directly or indirectly, gave money or valuable gifts to persuade an elector to vote or not vote was guilty of bribery.

     Giving money or a valuable gift included giving, lending, agreeing to give or lend, offering, promising or promising to procure or try to procure, any money or valuable gift.

    It was not necessary to prove that such actions did in fact produce any effect on the election.

    Any money or valuable gift given or offered or agreed to be given within three months of any

    election by or on behalf of a candidate, would be considered to have been offered for the purpose of influencing the vote.

    Lord Chief Justice Whitten said it had to be assumed that when it framed the law Parliament took into account Tongan customs involving the giving of gifts whether by way of assistance to family members, refreshments or as part of recognized rituals or ceremonies.

    The judge said that the quality of the evidence presented by Sika’s witnesses ranged from clear and credible to confused and confusing.

    Lord Chief Justice Whitten described Dr Fasi and witness ‘Epele Sekeni as impressive witnesses.

    “Throughout their cross-examination, they gave clear, measured and consistent evidence, none of which was damaged in any material respect. Therefore, where the evidence of Mr Sika’s witnesses conflicted with that of Dr Fasi and his witnesses, particularly ‘Epele, I preferred the latter.”

    The judge said the first claim failed and that ‘Epele gave Siosaia the TP$100 in appreciation of work being done and help workers buying their lunch, not on behalf of Dr Fasi.

    The second claim failed because there was no evidence or suggestion that Dr Fasi gave the groceries himself.

    The third claim as withdrawn.

    The judge said the fourth claim failed.

    “The uncontroverted fact that the money was given ultimately for the benefit of the Tofoa church, within the Tongatapu 7 district, would negate any rational possibility that Dr Fasi had sought to induce the electors of the Tofoa church to vote for him because their vote could not assist  him in being elected as the representative of the Tongatapu 2 electorate,” the judge said.

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