The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Nafoitoa Tala’imanu Keti, has called on Parliament to reconsider the proposal to divide voters for Gagaemauga No. 2.
The Member of Parliament for Gagaemauga No. 3 has asked the Government to consider a standalone seat for Saleaula, as opposed to the current plan where Saleaula will join voters in Gagaemauga No. 1.
“The Government has meddled with of core traditional authority in Savai’i with its decision to remove of Saleaula from its own electoral constituency,” he said.
In Samoan, he cautioned: O lea ua omiomi le niu ale le pule fa’avae i le Puleono i Salafai, tulou lo’u gutu male afi - ia Saleauala ma lona tufugaga.
“That is my concern, although my Constituency is not affected but this will affect Savai'i as a whole.”
Nafoitoa voiced his concerns during the discussion of the proposed Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018 during Parliament this week.
The proposed Bill seeks the removal of urban seats and the redefining of electoral boundaries based on geographical location.
Nafoitoa commended the Electoral Minister, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u for the Bill.
“However, there are changes that should be re-examined,” said Nafoitoa.
The Deputy Speaker made it clear he does not support the removal of Saleaula from Gagaemauga No. 2, which they currently belong to.
Nafoitoa cautioned that the changes being introduced will affect the traditional relationship between districts and villages.
“The mutual respect between the districts is what I am extremely troubled about and that is why I implore you to reconsider the removal of Saleaula.”
Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi, intervened. He reminded his Deputy that the proposal will go to a Parliamentary Committee for a review.
He said members of the public, along with Members of Parliament, are welcome to sit through the hearings and raise their concerns then.
“The Bill does not affect our culture and traditional boundaries because it only targets the voting districts.”
But the Deputy Speaker appealed to add a new seat for Saleaula, taking the number of Members of Parliament to 52.
“Honourable Minister, the many people bring forth voluminous ideas and philosophies for the betterment and these are changes that we can make."
“Also Saleaula is one regarded as a pule (traditional authority) in Salafai,” he said.
According to the Deputy Speaker, there are things that should not be changed no matter what.
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, objected.
He argued that changes have nothing to do with Samoa’s culture and traditional boundaries.
He said the division are only voting constituencies, as opposed to territorial constituencies.
“When you bring culture and traditions into such issues, this is when things tend to be problematic. Again these are only voting districts,” said Tuilaepa.
Nafoi was among a handful of M.P’s from Savai’i who raised concerns about the plan.
Former Speaker and Member of Parliament for Gagaifomauga No. 3, La’auiloemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, also objected.
“We are concerned about the renaming of the electoral constituencies,” said La’auli.
“The essence behind our unease is because we want the integrity of the constituencies to remain intact. We are Members of Parliament for the respective constituency and that is our calling.”
La’auli reminded our forefathers, who laid the foundation for Samoa, knew the importance of traditional links.
“You are a traditional leader in your district. You’re not just a lawmaker from your constituency. Your calling to your constituency does not end after the election."
“Your purpose is to serve your district and you are a traditional leader endorsed by your traditional leaders in your respective districts.”