P.M. stands by proposed electoral law changes
The Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018 should solve “once and for all” the problem of the voter population relocating due to job creation.
This is what Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said in an interview released by his Press Secretary on Saturday.
The interview followed opposition against the Bill in two petitions tabled in Parliament last week. The first petition lodged by Saleaula was read and tabled last Tuesday.
The second petition, lodged by the Ali’i ma Faipule of Tafua, Savai’i, was tabled by former Cabinet Minister, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga. It calls for Tafua to remain in the Palauli le Falefa electoral constituency.
Palauli le Falefa and Gagaemauga No. 2 are among constituencies affected by the Bill, which seeks the removal of urban seats and the re-defining of electoral boundaries, based on geographical location.
According to the Prime Minister, the proposed reform is the “final phase of the five phase reform programme” the Government started 28 years ago.
“First – we extended the right to vote for everyone 21 years upward. Previously only the chiefs voted. Now non-chiefs 21 years upward are voting to select our political leaders,” Tuilaepa explained.
“Secondly – we extended the term for our political leaders from three to five years, giving them sufficient time to engage in long term nation building programmes – not short term fixes typically prioritised by political leaders elected on shorter terms of three years.”
The third step was when Tuilaepa said they “Samoanised our Parliament” to reflect the Samoan culture, “which guided our people over many thousand years of our peaceful existence to where we are today.
“That is the chiefs – the matais who are the anointed heads of each family in the villages with vast wisdom and experiences, are the decision makers. Many matais today are educated men and women, and professionals deeply knowledgeable of their Samoan culture.
“Fourthly – the short term fixes of classifying our political districts into large and small districts on the basis of population numbers – giving the bigger districts two members of Parliament – versus one for smaller districts and with the voters in large districts having two votes, can never be a satisfactory solution.
“Our H.R.P.P. government terminated that stupidity during the last Parliamentary term. Now every political district in Samoa has now one Member of Parliament, and every voter follows the norm of one man or woman – and one vote.”
According to the Prime Minister, the electoral reforms have one goal.
“All these reforms have one goal in mind and that is fair and equitable representation in Parliament with our cultural flavour. I had explained what’s behind these reforms when this bill was first introduced to Parliament,” he said.
In Parliament last week, Prime Minister criticised the M.P.s behind the petitions.
“It would’ve been better if these Members weren’t Cabinet Ministers before but people who were Cabinet Ministers should know that we don’t look at such issues lightly,” he said.
“These steps (identified above) were not easy. The Governments of the past avoided it. Why? They were afraid to touch fire but with the H.R.P.P government, it is our belief that it is only smoke, no one will get burned.”
He also threatened to “blow this up with an atomic bomb.”
In the interview released by his Press Secretary, Tuilaepa confirmed that one of the petitions, from Saleaula, has been accepted.
“That is alright under our freedom of expression right to protest,” he said.
“That reaffirms that democracy is very much alive in Samoa. That is one great benefit of having differing views. They help a lot to make our no-care attitude people to listen more to reason.”