Another election result cancelled as Moeaki found guilty of bribery in Tongatapu 4 contest

Yet another election outcome has been declared void after the Supreme Court found Tatafu Moeaki guilty of two offences of bribery under section 21 of the Electoral Act.

Māteni Tapueluelu (L), Tatafu Moeaki

Moeaki was found guilty after the court heard a petition from Mateni Tapueluelu who stood unsuccessfully against Moeaki in the contest for the Tongatapu 4 constituency, which comprises Ma’ufanga, Houmakelikao, Fangaloto, ‘Anana, ‘Umusi, Popua, Patangata, Tukutonga, Pangaimotu and Siesia.

At the time of the election on November 18, 2021, Tapueluelu held the seat and Moeaki was Minister of Labour, Commerce and Industries.

Moeaki won the election.

Tapueluelu asked the Supreme Court to overturn the result on the grounds that Moeaki had committed bribery by the following methods:

Giving TP$100 to one Nikisoni Tomasi, an elector of Tongatapu 4, to induce him to vote for him;

Making promises to procure loans for a group of female electors at Patangata to induce them to vote for him;

Making promises through another person to give free plastic water tanks to electors of Patangata to induce them to vote for him;

Making promises through another person to electors at Patangata that he would build dwelling houses for them for a sum ofTP $3000 per house to induce them to vote for him;

Making promises through another person to upgrade the roads in the electorate to induce the electors to vote for him.

Section 21 (1) Electoral Act says that every person commits the offence of bribery who, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf gives any money or valuable gift to or for any elector, or to or for any other person on behalf of any elector or to or for any other person, in order to induce any elector to vote or refrain from voting.

A reference to giving, lending, agreeing to give or lend, offering, promising or promising to procure or try to procure, any money or valuable gift fell under this category.

In his defence, Moeaki said he had given TP$100 to Nikisoni Tomasi, but it was without any intention to induce him to vote for him.

He denied that he had promised to procure a loan for anybody.

He said he did not make any promise to procure a water tank for anybody.

He did not promise to build a house for anybody or promise to upgrade any road to induce the electors to vote for him.

After the evidence for both sides were given and his lawyer had filed his submissions Tapueluelu withdrew the allegations that Moeaki had promised to build houses and upgrade roads

Justice Niu, presiding, said that after considering the evidence he found the first claim had been proved.

“I consider that the petitioner has proved, and I am satisfied on the balance of probability, that the respondent gave TP$100 to Nikisoni Tomasi to induce Nikisoni Tomasi to vote for him,” the judge said.

“I find that the third claim has been proved, and I am satisfied on the balance of probability that the respondent committed bribery by making promises through another person to give plastic water tank to electors of Patangata to induce them to vote for him.

Because it had been proved to the satisfaction of this Court that Tatafu Moeaki was guilty of two offences of bribery under section 21 of the Electoral Act, and in pursuance of the provisions of section 32 of that Act, this Court declared that his election as the representative for the Tongatapu 4 Constituency was void.

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