West Kwara’ae new MP faces election petition despite landslide victory
BY EDDIE OSIFELO
NEWLY elected Member of West Kwara’ae, Alfred JM Tuasulia, is facing a petition despite his landslide victory in the by-election held in May.
This follows allegations of bribery committed by Tuasulia at Bio Bridge, Bubuitolo, Fauabu clinic, Taisol, and Buma prior to the polling day.
The petition has been filed in the High Court by losing candidates Fred Ramoli and Barnard Gale, as well as a registered voter, Bobby Ngalingwa’a.
The petitioners want to emphasize that an Election Petition should not be considered a private matter but rather a case of public interest.
They believe that it is important to ensure free and fair elections, which are the cornerstone of our democracy, particularly in the West Kwara’ae constituency.
The petitioners acknowledge that in our Melanesian context, gift-giving is a cultural norm.
However, during elections, this can become blurred and fall under the offense of Election Bribery as stated in the Electoral Act 2018.
They highlight that only the High Court can determine what conduct is appropriate during elections, and it is crucial for people to understand the difference between culturally appropriate gift-giving and corruption.
The petitioners expressed the view that merely complaining and murmuring about corruption will not lead to a better understanding, but seeking the court’s determination through an Election Petition is necessary.
If the petition is successful, it would mean that Tuasulia was not duly elected, found guilty of Election bribery and treating, and would be barred from contesting any elections for five years.
The petitioners also mention that criminal prosecutions may be pursued against Tuasulia and others involved, as election bribery is considered a corruption offense.
The advocate for the petitioners is David Lidimani, a private lawyer and a candidate who did not succeed in the by-election.
Tuasulia assumed office following the passing of the long-term MP for West Kwara’ae, Samuel Iduri, who had been battling a long illness.