Dispute Tribunal ruling favours rugby legend

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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SPORTS DISPUTE TRIBUNAL MATTER: President of Samoa Amateur Boxing Association, Fesola'i Vaaiga Tuigamala and the Chair of the Sports Dispute Tribunal, Justice Mata Tuatagaloa.

SPORTS DISPUTE TRIBUNAL MATTER: President of Samoa Amateur Boxing Association, Fesola'i Vaaiga Tuigamala and the Chair of the Sports Dispute Tribunal, Justice Mata Tuatagaloa. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

The Samoa Sports Dispute Tribunal has recommended dissolving the current Samoa Amateur Boxing Association (S.A.B.A.) Executive. 

The Tribunal was chaired by Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa with members including Tuisugaletaua Aveau Sofara and Rev. Dr. Siaosi Salesulu.

The recommendation is made in the Tribunal’s report to Cabinet. Cabinet had ordered the Tribunal to look into the removal of rugby legend, Fesola’i Va’aiga Tu’igamala, as President of the Samoa Amateur Boxing Association (S.A.B.A.).

The Tribunal had also been asked to investigate:

• Whether the Annual General Meeting of S.A.B.A. on 10 November 2017 and whether correct and proper procedures were followed at this meeting;

• The current Executive membership of S.A.B.A. and whether such positions held were obtained appropriately;

• The removal of Fesola’i Va’aiga Tuigamala as President of S.A.B.A. whether such removal followed proper procedure and the Constitution of S.A.B.A.; and

• The Constitution of S.A.B.A. and if there are inconsistencies so as to cause confusion.

“The Tribunal is of the view that Orders are necessary for the way forward. [43] The Tribunal makes the following Orders with the national interest of Samoa and the sport of boxing of paramount concern (s.5): 

“That the current S.A.B.A. Executive be dissolved,” the report reads. 

“An interim executive to be appointed consisting of the following people: Papalii Pasi Poloa: Savaii/Upolu Boxing; Fesola’i Vaaiga Tuigamala: Plantation Boxing; President: Marist Boxing; President: Tumua ma Pule Boxing; and a representative from M.E.S.C.”

 The Tribunal, in their ruling, said it is sad to note that the dispute between Fesola’i and S.A.B.A. turned personal and it is evident in the conflicting views that have arisen due to different perspectives with regards to administration. 

“The long standing members have developed an ownership mentality over the sport and not giving the new comers the opportunity to show what they can do to advance the sport forward,” the report reads. 

“This is in no way discounting the valuable insight and contribution the long standing members of boxing have done all these years but at some point they need to take an advisory role, take a step back and let new blood come in. 

“What is obvious despite the differences alluded to is that the parties to this dispute are all of the same heart, their love of the sport of boxing. 

“The parties to the dispute are urged to take positive steps to rectify the current unsatisfactory situation to protect the national and international interest of the sport of amateur boxing. 

“This can only be achieved by the parties working together. The Orders made by the tribunal are made with this belief.”

According to the decision, S.A.B.A. was incorporated and registered under the Incorporated Societies Ordinance 1952 in 1979. 

“The applicant is a well-known former All Blacks and Manu Samoa rugby player who since 2013 moved to Samoa to live permanently. In 2015, the applicant set up the Plantation Boxing Ring, which trains amateur boxers and became a member of S.A.B.A. in 2016.” 

The applicant was elected as President at a special general meeting (S.G.M.) of S.A.B.A. held on 19 January 2017 ousting Auali’itia Faafouina Milford. 

The respondents are the current executive members of S.A.B.A. elected at its annual general meeting (A.G.M.) held on 10 November 2017. 

Papalii Poloa was elected as President, Aualiitia Faafouina as one of two Vice Presidents; Faletolu Su’a as Secretary and Tavui Mike Lemisio as Treasurer, while Luamanuvae Gaugau Mateo as an executive member. 

The applicant was represented by Luatutu Andre Volentras and the respondents were self-represented. 

Tuigamala, in his opening statement, said the election at the A.G.M. of 10 November 2017 by which he was ousted was not in accordance with S.A.B.A.’s constitution and was therefore unconstitutional. 

“The respondents on the other hand say otherwise that the election at the AGM of 10 November 2017 was in accordance with the Constitution. That Fesola’i Vaaiga was only elected as President from the S.G.M. of 19 January 2017 for a period of 12 months.” 

The ruling says the central issue therefore is whether the elections held at the A.G.M. of 10 November 2017 by which the Applicant, Fesola’i Vaaiga was ousted was in accordance with the registered S.A.B.A. constitution of 1984. 

The Tribunal, after hearing the Applicant and the Respondents, finds that no elections were held at the A.G.M. of 30 October 2016. 

“The three men that became vice-presidents from this A.G.M. were not elected but were agreed upon by the members who were present. Two of the vice-presidents were not even present at the A.G.M. while the other was not even a financial member then. 

“The elections were deferred as the auditing of the financial statement for 2015 has not been completed. 

“A resolution was passed for a special general meeting to be held on 19 January 2017 to present and passed the audited financial statement and to hold elections.” 

The Tribunal found the elections held at the A.G.M. of 10 November 2017 was unconstitutional on the following grounds: 

“The term of office is three years and not 12 months. The President and Executive elected at S.G.M. of 19 January 2017 have only been in office for almost 10 months. 

“The S.A.B.A. Executive does not have the authority under Article 17(1) of the Constitution to postpone or defer an A.G.M. later than 1 November each year. 

“The Executive, according to Article 17(1), can decide on whatever month to have the A.G.M. which month must be prior to 1 November each year.” 

Furthermore, the Tribunal noted that it was clear to the Tribunal that the S.A.B.A. Executive does not always follow their constitution. 

“They also do not fully understand their constitution. They should always defer to their solicitor for clarification whenever there is an issue at the A.G.M. or S.G.M. and not use the ava fatafata and va fealoa’i that some of the respondents refer to in order to justify their decisions made and to resolve any issues. 

“The practice of using the culture of ava fatafata and va fealoa’i to justify non-compliance with the constitution is detrimental to the administration to the sport of boxing or for any sport. 

“There is always a time and place for the ava fatafata and va fealoa’i but we do not and should not abuse our culture to suit our own agendas and/or to the detriment of the sport. 

“Any friction within a sporting body will always impact on the sport itself especially to the young boxing enthusiasts. 

“There are a lot of inconsistencies within the S.A.B.A. constitution itself. 

“It would be difficult to amend one clause without directly impacting on reading a different, but related clause. 

“For instance, the term of office as per Article 13 is for three years, however at Article 17 it states that all officers shall retire from office at the end of the meeting. 

“Another issue that neither the applicant nor the respondents could answer confidently to was that of a financial member. 

“Different people had a different understanding, some thought that affiliation to a boxing ring made you a financial member, others said that an affiliation was not enough a subscription fee also had to be paid. The issue of who is the chairman of the A.G.M. is also unclear. 

“These are just some of the few issues and clauses that were raised, repeated and often unclear as to what each meant in the context of the entire constitution. 

“The S.A.B.A., by failing to comply with its constitution and/or neglecting to make the amendments necessary to strengthen and guide the administration of the sport, has failed to honour one of its objectives. 

“To encourage, foster, develop and assist in the advancement of amateur boxing in the country.” 

The Tribunal highlighted the constitution needs a complete overhaul for clarity and should be a priority of S.A.B.A. 

“That Samoa Amateur Sports and National Olympic Committee (S.A.S.N.O.C.) or the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.) have a monitoring role in the administration of sports making sure that they comply with their constitution and have in place policies as guideline for all sports with the objective of good governance. 

“Good governance is inductive to honesty and will positively impact on any sport.”

Under the section 21 of the Sports Dispute Resolution Act 2008, the Tribunal may make Orders for the purpose of resolving any dispute. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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