Parliament yesterday passed the new law – the Citizenship Amendment Act 2016 - without any objections.
Soon afterwards, Parliament adjourned to reconvene on 18 October 1016.
First debated in the Legislative Assembly in its June session this year, some say the smoothness with which the bill has been progressing towards its eventual passage yesterday is to be expected.
They reckon that with the government in control of the majority in Parliament, passage was a forgone conclusion.
According to the Independent M.P. for Salega East, Olo Fiti Va’ai the new law is likely to pose a threat to future general elections when foreigners with money who are granted citizenships, decide to run for the general elections.
However, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, disagreed. He objected saying the amendment to the bill is only intended to permit non-citizen Samoan descendants to represent Samoa in various sporting events.
He said the existing policy in regards to citizenship prevents non – citizens from doing so which has affected the number of athletes that are able to represent Samoa at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
A proposed change into the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 will pose a threat to the locals in future general elections when foreigners with money who are granted citizens, decide to run.
This was the viewpoint of the Independent M.P. for Salega East, Olo Fiti Va’ai when he questioned the Social Sector Committee that tabled a report on the bill yesterday when parliament reconvened.
The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Amendment Act 2004 to cover second generation Samoans born overseas who want to become citizens by descent.
Olo questioned how the provisions of the bill will affect a new citizen’s ability to run in the election under existing electoral laws.
The M.P. had previous raised concern that the change will allow foreign investors who are granted citizenship to bring in their descendants to Samoa.
“Looking at the amendment when someone from another country is granted citizenship he is also entitle to a matai title, monotaga (village contribution) and to run in the general election,” said the M.P.
“It is no secret that when it comes to elections and money we cannot compete with them. Has the committee in drafting its proposed amendment taken into account the effect of other laws.”
Said Tuilaepa: “Sonny Bill came to Samoa to personally request Samoan citizenship to enable him to take up a rugby league contract in England,” said Tuilaepa.
“With the increase of Samoan league players taking up contracts in England, there had been an increase in request for Samoan citizenship by overseas Samoan descendant to enable them to represent Samoa when possible…that is the whole gist of the amendment is to reach out to Samoans born overseas who want to represent our country to make Samoa known to the world.”
Furthermore Tuilaepa said in the past, he had made an amendment to remove the discretion from the Prime Minister on who he can grant citizenship to.
His reason was that he did not want the Prime Minister to be accused by the public of having those discretionary powers
Unconvinced with the explanation from the Prime Minister, Olo took the floor again.
This time he urged Tuilaepa not to take his Prime Ministerial discretion too lightly.
It was at this point that Tuilaepa interjected.
He accused the M.P. of discussing dead issues when they should be debating ‘living’ laws that is under discussion.
The amendment was on Clause 2 to amend Section 7 of the Principal Act by inserting a new subsection (4) after subsection (3).
Subsection (4) states that, “As an exception to subsections (1) to (3), a person born outside Samoa is a citizen of Samoa by descent provided that at the time of the person’s birth at least 1 grandparent of the person is or was a Samoan citizen by birth.”
Another amendment that the Committee made was to substitute clause 2 with “transition – Section 7 of the principal act (As amended by this Act) applies to a person who was born outside of Samoa before the commencement of this Act, and whose grandparent is or was a citizen of Samoa by birth.”
Associate Minister for the Ministry of Communication, Information and Technology, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi supported the proposed change.
However he asked why the lineage entitlement was limited to one’s grandparents and not extended to great grandparents.
In response, the Chairperson of the Social Sector Committee, Gatoloaifaana Amataga Gidlow said to extend the lineage to great grandparents would pose unforeseen complications.
She added it would be better to take small and effective steps at this point.
Tuilaepa was in support of the Chairperson. He pointed out that the control measures of $5,000 application fee for prospective applicants would ensure the process is not abused.
But veteran M.P. for Falealupo, Aeau Peniamina Levaise’eta differed.
He said that Samoan genealogies are not written and limited and everyone is aware of their descendants.
“To limit the genealogy cannot be justified,” he said.
CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL 2016 SAMOA
Object and Reasons:
The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Amendment Act 2004 (“the Act”) to cover second generation Samoans born overseas who want to become citizens by descent.
Clause 1: - states that, when enacted, the Bill will be called the Citizenship Amendment Act 2016, and will commence on the date of assent by the Head of State.
Clause 2: - amends section 7 of the Act to cover second generation Samoans born outside Samoa whose parent was or grandparent is or was a Samoan citizen at the date of birth.
Clause 3: - provides for transitional matters to cover applications that are pending with the Ministry awaiting enactment of the Bill.