Church petitions ignored
Two petitions signed by three of the country's largest denominations, urging Parliament not to proceed with a law change omitting religious contributions in the definition of the monotaga, were not accepted by Parliament.
The claim was made by Member of Parliament, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, musician, Uava Vevesi Tovi’o and businessman, Papali’i Panoa Moala, during a press conference on Friday.
The petitions were against the 2020 Electoral Bill, which was eventually passed by Parliament on Tuesday.
La'auli, Uava and Papali'i, who are members of the Committee behind the petitions, expressed disappointment that the petitions were not acknowledged by Parliament.
The first petition was signed by Archbishop of the Catholic Church, Alapati Lui Mataelig, the General Secretary of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, Reverend Vavatau Taufao; Uava and Papali’i.
A second petition was signed by the Methodist Church's General Secretary, Reverend Dr. Eteuati Tuioti.
La'auli expressed disappointment about Parliament rejecting both petitions against the changes, despite them being signed by church leaders and over 1,000 people.
“Why were the petitions not tabled before Parliament as per [the] usual process?” La’auli asked. “It appears Parliament does not value the views of members of the public. This is shocking."
“The [recently approved] Electoral Bill will not honour religious contributions as a criteria to run in the general election; but only your village contribution will allow you to run for office,” he said.
“According to the first petition, this specific amendment will violate Human Rights in the Constitution. [This] contradicts the essence of the true spirit of the Constitution of Samoa, Samoa founded on God is based on Christian principles.
“It hinders national policy and efforts and international commitment of the Government of Samoa to encourage the participation of women in politics to become future members of Parliament.”
The first petition criticised the bill, which will be implemented before the next General Election, for violating principles of political fairness for candidates who had satisfied the ‘monotaga’ requirement for church contributions over the last four years.
“The principles of transparency, accountability and good governance would be violated," the petition reads.
"In our humble opinion the Samoan traditions and customs and the Christian practices have been well established and merged into one form of service being accepted in the lives of Samoans.
“These tautua fa’aleaganu’u (service to the village) tautua fa’alelotu (service to the church) are two main pillars in serving God.
“Therefore these two pillars are complimentary but do not stand alone or independent.”
“The [second] petition [is written] by the Methodist Church [and] written in Samoan [...meaning] that there are things that identify you as a Samoan.
“Your culture where you are a chief and there’s the church and its Christianity.”
“The Methodist church reminds the blessing of a Chief is conducted by a Church Minister as these things are parallel and they go hand in hand.”
The General Secretary of the Methodist Church, Reverend Dr. Eteuati Sili Tuioti, while not at Friday's press conference, also separately conveyed their disappointment.
It was not possible to obtain a comment from the Legislative Assembly before press time.
On Tuesday, however, when Laauli raised the matter in Parliament, Deputy Speaker, Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti, objected saying Parliament's Bills Committee did not receive a petition.
“I want to move a motion to remove from the Hansard claims by [Laauli…] that a petition was submitted,” Nafoitoa said.
“We reviewed the amendments thoroughly and I want to reiterate the motion to remove these comments from the Hansard because they are inaccurate.”
The Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, granted the motion.
The following is a copy of one of the petitions, in English:
TO THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF SAMOA
Our humble prayer (Petition) by the Leaders of the 3 main churches in Samoa namely, the Catholic Church, the Congregational Christian Church and the Methodist Church in Samoa. In addition members of the public have also endorsed and signed as per attachment.
Church Leaders namely;
- Afioga Akiepikopō (Archbishop) – Afioga Alapati Lui Mataeliga – Head of the Catholic Church in Samoa.
- Susuga Failautusi Aoao (General Secretary) – Rev. Vavatau Taufao of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa.
- Susuga i le Failautusi (Secretary) – Rev. Eteuati Tuioti of the Methodist Church in Samoa.
- Committee Member – Papalii Tavita Moala
- Committee Member – Uava Vevesi Tovio
- Members of the Public as per attachment.
- Electoral Amendment Bill 2020
CLAUSE 3 (c): Amends section 8 subsection (5) of the Principal Act to:
(c) Omit religious contributions in the definition of “monotaga”.
- Afioga e,
Honourable Speaker, Hon. Deputy Speaker, Hon. Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament.
It is with utmost respect that we signed petitioners attached to this submission make our humble prayer to the Legislative Assembly for consideration not to proceed with the above mentioned amendment of “omitting the religious contributions in the definition of “monotaga” in view of the following rationale.
- As stated above the leaders of the 3 main churches account for a much bigger portion of the population of Samoa undoubtedly supports our prayer against this proposed amendment. For ease of reference, the Catholic Church accounts for 36,766 church goers, the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa accounts for 56,818 members and the Methodist Church accounts for 24,228 members. Overall, the total is 118,903 out of the total population of 195,979 or 61% of the total population of Samoa. The number of those who signed the petition is 1302 as per attachment.
- Election process and eligibility under this amendment, will not allow for a free and fair political participation of any Samoan Citizens to qualify as a candidate in the general election.
- In our humble view, this amendment will violate the Human rights enshrine in our constitution.
- Contradicts the essence and true spirit of the constitution of Samoa, “Fa’avae i le Atua Samoa” based on Christian principles.
- It hinders national policy and efforts and international commitment of the Government of Samoa to encourage the participation of Women in politics to become future Members of Parliament.
- The proposed amendment to take effect in the next general election, one year prior to the election, is unfair for intending candidates who satisfied the monotaga requirement for the last 4 years. The principles of transparency, accountability and good governance would be violated.
- In our humble opinion, the Samoa traditions and customs, and the Christian practices have been well established and merged into one form of service being accepted in the lives of Samoans. These “tautua fa’aleaganuu and tautua fa’alelotu” are two main pillars in serving God. Therefore these two pillars are “complimentary” but do not stand alone or “independent”.
- The “Candidates” and “Voters” make up the General election. In our view, the qualifications for any two parties must be the same. If the requirements for a candidate must satisfy the traditional service in the villages, “matais” are expected to provide monotaga and so as the “taule’ale’a”, tamaitai (in women committee) etc.
If this is the case, the villages like Vaitele, Talimatau, Alafua, Tulaele etc don’t have village settings. Hence many will not be able to vote if this qualification for voters would be incorporated in the amendments.
Honourable Members and parliamentarians we respectfully submit our humble views and suggestions in the spirit of making this amended law to accommodate some of the shortcomings as we see fit in our own views and perspective. Hence, the definition of monotaga need to include religious contributions must be “compulsory” in the definition of monotaga.
Please kindly accept our humble apologies if we have gone overboard in expressing our views and comments but solely in good spirit of democracy we are practising in our beloved Samoa. We shall and are prepared to accept wholeheartedly whatever the decision this honourable Parliament will make with regards to this petition taking note of our concern.
Afioga Alapati Lui Mataeliga – Archbishop of Samoa – Catholic Church
Susuga Vavatau Taufao – General Secretary – EFKS
Susuga Eteuati Tuioti – General Secretary – Methodist Church in Samoa
Papalii Panoa T. Moala – Member of the Public
Uava Vevesi Tovio – Member of the Public
All other petitioners attached
With due respect and God Bless Samoa.