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By-election prosecutions ongoing: Commission

The Fa'asaleleaga No. 2 by-election led to six cases of prosecution involving pre and post election matters, the Electoral Commission’s annual report has noted.

Three out of six cases had been prosecuted, the report said. Two involved village representatives attesting to a false declaration of residency while the others were false residency declarations themselves. 

"This particular voter has been convicted and fined $200 for the offense for false declaration."

The report outlines one of the pending cases involving a woman using her sister’s birth certificate to register in Fa'asaleleaga No. 2 but had already been registered elsewhere. 

The case is pending as authorities cannot locate the voter's whereabouts.

A year ahead of the 2021 General Elections, the head of the Office of the Electoral Commission, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, is appealing to everyone to uphold democratic standards. 

"[These are] our elections. Samoa’s elections," he said.

"We all have a role to play in ensuring that the integrity of the process that we use to elect our leaders is held at a high regard."

Faimalomatumua said the O.E.C. 's relationship with village representatives is of great importance that unfortunately comes with challenges like any other.

"Sui o Nu’u and Sui Tama’ita’i o Nu’u (Village representatives) are one of the key stakeholders in our line of work," he said.

"It’s the same with village councils and churches around the country. We have a very critical partnership with them as we heavily rely on them to verify and confirm residency status of voters who seek registration on different electoral rolls. 

"It’s a partnership that we’re working hard on to strengthen on a constant basis."

The O.E.C. works with around 600 village representatives and only a few have been causing problems and have had to seek legal proceedings.

"Unfortunately, as [is] the case in most partnerships, there are issues that we encounter along the way, but we always take the [consultative] approach in addressing them," Faimalomatumua said.

"It’s only when this approach fails that we then decide to initiate legal proceedings.

"And we are aware of the fact that we’ll continue to have issues in this partnership going forward, but we’ll keep strengthening it through awareness programs."

The Electoral Office has been conducting awareness programmes since early last year on electoral law to organisations such as the Samoa Law Society as well as T.V. advertisements and radio talk shows to ensure people are well aware of the laws surrounding the matter.

Faimalomatumua tells voters that the final decision in the voting booths can only be a choice by them alone, and will be kept secret for the whole process.

"Voters need to know that the last say on who to vote for rests on each voter solely when he or she goes into that compartment to cast their votes," he said.

"No one will be inside that compartment to tell you who to vote for. Your name is not written on the ballot paper. 

"All ballot papers are codified by numbers so there’s no way that another person will know who you voted for. Unless of course you tell them."

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