O Samoa o le atunu’u ua uma ona tofi. Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018 divisive, disruptive, insensitive

In Parliament this week, two villages lodged petitions against the Government’s Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018. 

Whereas the Ali’i ma Faipule of Saleaula and Salamumu are against the plan to divide the territorial constituency of Gagaemauga No. 2, which currently comprises of Saleaula in Savai’i and Salamumu in Upolu, the Ali’i ma Faipule of Tafua, Savai’i want to remain in the Palauli le Falefa electoral constituency.

Saleaula and Tafua are only a handful of villagers affected by the bill.

Amidst the hustle to discuss and pass the 2018/2019 Supplementary Budget, which was eventually approved yesterday, the tabling of the petitions created quite a stir. Which is understandable because it’s quite unusual if you ask people who follow Parliament proceedings closely. 

So much so the Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, who is a very senior Member of Parliament, raised a question about Parliamentary procedures and its competing priorities. She had a legitimate point and good on her for speaking out.  

But the issue in question here, which is the subject of both petitions and possibly more down the line, is in our opinion bigger than Parliamentary proceedings, bigger than the Government or any individual. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018 is a threat to Samoan cultural customs and tradition since it seeks to re-define electoral boundaries, based on geographical location.

The problem from where we stand is it appears that the Government has embraced a foreign method in dealing with electoral boundaries – which probably works well where it was created - without considering the disruptive and divisive ramifications of such a law in Samoa. 

Samoa is unique. Our Parliamentary system is unique. Our election system is unique. Our customs and traditions are also unique. We, as Samoans, are unique.

We might be small but our way of life is grand and we are a lot more complicated than people think. It is why you cannot just print out a map and start drawing lines across and say these are the boundaries. 

It is also why this Government cannot just embrace a recommendation by a consultant from goodness knows where about how to divide electoral boundaries and then force it down the throats of people, expecting them to live with it. 

You can fool people sometimes but you cannot fool them all the time. 

Besides, all Samoans know that “O Samoa o le atunu’u ua uma ona tofi.” That is, the boundaries and the demarcation of our villages; families, lands and everything about Samoa have already been decided. 

Now does that mean everything is set in stone? Absolutely not because the times are changing and sometimes changes are needed. But here is the thing, these changes must be measured, they must be considerate and they have to be done sensitively in accordance to our culture, traditions and customs. 

The changes being proposed by the Government’s Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018 are anything but measured, sensitive and definitely not in accordance with our culture, customs and traditions. This is why it is morally wrong for the Government to just create these laws and say that the changes are merely electoral changes. They are not. 

Our Parliament, and the representation by way of Members, is a reflection of Samoa, our customs and traditions. It starts from when boys and girls are groomed within individual families, then they are blessed to hold chiefly titles after they render service. These chiefs continue to serve in the village, church and elsewhere and in return get the blessings from the Village Council. 

From there they get the endorsement from the electoral constituencies to speak on their behalf in Parliament. 

These ancient constituencies exist for a reason. They reflect the vision, wisdom and foresight of our forebears who set the foundation upon which Samoa’s political stability stands. 

Without them, Samoa and our electoral system would be like any other country. And if that’s what Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration want, then maybe it’s time they need to think about revising the whole Parliamentary system? Why do we need to elect only matais to Parliament? 

Why don’t we do what the rest of the world is doing and select our politicians based on tertiary qualifications, wealth and other factors? Who needs territorial constituencies anymore, let alone electoral constituencies?

Think about it. Have a restful weekend Samoa, God bless!

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