Vote law change criticised
A person can now only cast their vote from their place of residence regardless of his/her cultural connection to other villages.
So claims the President of the Tautua Samoa Party, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele, who attributed the change to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2020, passed into law by Parliament on Tuesday.
As an example, Afualo said the law change means a person who resides in Apia can no longer be registered to vote in their rural village.
He condemned the change saying it interfere's with people’s rights to cast their votes from the villages they contribute to the development and serve. He also criticised the new law, accusing the Government of cutting the connection between people from their village of origin especially those residing in town for work purposes.
“A lot of us live in town for convenience of work and school for children but we all go back to the village where we belong,” he said.
“The law should be flexible so that it does not try to remove that connection we rightfully have to our village of origin and where we come from. This is clear breach of your rights to your heritage and it is disheartening.”
Afualo, a former Member of Parliament, said the new definition of electoral constituencies and voting based on residence will only create more seats for the urban area.
He said people will continue to move from the villages to town for work and economic reasons.
As a result, the rolls for seats such as Faleata, Vaimauga and Fa’asaleleaga in Savai’i will only increase.
This is due to the areas being highly populated due to its proximity to the townships of Apia and Salelologa.
In the new division of the Electoral Constituency, the number of seats for Faleata has increased from two in the previous general election to four seats in the upcoming election.
The village of Vaitele alone consisting of Vaitele fou, Vaitele Uta and Vaitele will have its own seat.
As for the Vaimauga district the number of seats has also risen from two in the previous term to three in the 2021 General Election.
“With the new division of boundaries it dictates the number of seats for the electorates and it does not honour our cultural heritage and the fa’amatai that we boast about,” said Afualo.
“I have no doubt that the urban seats number will increase again in the future if we follow this residency model.
“Clearly this residence requirement and the changes are contrary to claims from the Government that talks about valuing our customs and traditions…”
Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, also spoke about the residency amendment in Parliament. She said it contradicts the Government’s position on Samoan customs as advocated by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi during his Ministerial statement about the L.T.C. Bills.
Fiame questioned the amendment saying that a Member of Parliament will have to enforce the residence requirement in the constituency they are contesting from.
She highlighted the disparity in the population spread of Samoa as there are more people in Upolu than Savai’i.
The Deputy P.M., who is a former Minister of the Electoral Office, said if there is one legislation that depicts true Samoan customs, it is the Electoral Act.
“If our electoral system is truly reflective of our fa’amatai system and customs, then why is the electoral amendment moving away from that foundation,” she said.
At this point, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi cut in asking the Deputy Prime Minister that her concerns should have been expressed before the Committee that reviewed the bill.
“Regardless of whether you are the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister, it is during the Committee stage that all are invited to voice their concerns and issues,” he said.
“We are here now in consideration in detail stage and we must progress. We each have individual issues and interpretation of the Bill but we must move on.
“The Electoral Act is usually amended after General Elections based on findings and recommendations of the Electoral Committee.”