The Constitutional Amendment Bill 2018 which seeks to increase the number of Electoral constituencies was introduced and tabled in Parliament this week.
If it becomes law, the bill will increase the number of Members of Parliament from 50 to 51.
The Bill, which was tabled by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, makes it clear this does not affect the requirement that 10 per cent of Legislative Assembly membership must be made up of women.
According to a copy of the bill, the idea is to change some constituencies to electoral constituencies as opposed to territorial constituencies as they are currently known.
According to a statement issued by the Government’s Press Secretary, the reforms are part of the wholesale approach by Government to completely overhaul the local electoral processes to eliminate corruption and illegal practices.
“Do what is right and what is just in the eyes of the beholder,” Tuilaepa said when the bill was tabled.
“It’s a cardinal sin to turn blind to what we as elected leaders are obligated by our sworn oaths. There is nothing to fear but fear itself.
“Elections are for everyone and providing every opportunity for every voter to register and vote is paramount.
“It is crucial to have a robust electoral system and for everyone to cast their votes freely in order to get the best candidates to run the government.
“Understanding how the electoral system works and the importance of voting are fundamental in a democracy.
“If the process of elections is corrupt, then we elect those in Parliament who make decisions that will have an impact to our country’s development.”
A number of Members of Parliament will be affected.
One of them is the Minister for Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papaliitele Niko Lee-Hang, but he said the Constitutional Amendment Bill will not present a challenge.
“It’s not really an issue for me because only the name will change for where I will run from, but I will have the same constituents who will be in the same constituency,” he said.
“So to me it’s the same people. I know my supporters will also be in the same constituency where I will run from, so again, it is not really an issue.”
According to the statement, Prime Minister Tuilaepa noted the many changes to ensure the democratic process in Samoa’s Parliament since H.R.P.P. came to lead the government in 1982.
“Since the H.R.P.P. came into office, government has initiated Electoral Commission of Inquiries after every general elections to tighten our electoral processes by weeding out the weaknesses identified after every general elections,” Tuilaepa recalled.
“I remember one of the changes was creating voting IDs.
“This was 1982 and many voters were using the names of those who have passed away but their names were still on the electoral roll,” he said.
“This is another thing that needs to be addressed by the Electoral Office is to remove the names of all the dead people from the list.”
The amendment has been referred to a Parliament Committee for review and recommendation back to the house in 60 days from now.
Public forums will be called to garner public view.