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Petitions rejection saddens Church leaders

Leaders of two of the biggest church denominations in Samoa have lamented Parliament’s decision to ignore two petitions they signed and submitted against the 2020 Electoral Bill.

The petitions, which targeted the omission of religious contributions in the definition of the monotaga (service), were not tabled in Parliament when they convened last Tuesday to approve the law.

The first petition was signed by Archbishop of the Catholic Church, Alapati Lui Mataeliga, the General Secretary of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, Reverend Vavatau Taufao among others. 

A second petition was signed by the Methodist Church's General Secretary, Reverend Dr. Eteuati Tuioti.

Contacted for a comment, Rev. Tuioti said he does not wish to argue against the Government’s decision since they have already passed the law. But he said he wished they could have acknowledged their advice contained in the petitions.

“I only wish it went through the process it should’ve gone to before the decision (to pass) the law was made,” he said.

The General Secretary added that there were issues raised in the petitions the Government should not have taken so lightly, especially in relation to the churches.

Asked what their next step would be, Rev. Tuioti said the petitions have been rejected and there is not much the church can do.

But the Archbishop of the Catholic Church, Alapati Mataeliga, said the Government should revisit the petitions and read it to help them understand the plea from the churches. He said it is disappointing that the Government would just brush aside the issues.

 “I think it’s best to relook at the petitions as they’re not just some issues we came up with but these are very important matters to the churches and the communities,” the Archbishop said.

 “We are of the belief that the more perspectives we have on an issue the better it is for decision to be made. This creates better results.”

He added: “We’re all aware and are used to the monotaga in the villages. Once you’re a matai, you have to have a monotaga in the village or families so it’s nothing new.”

When Rev. Taufao was contacted, he declined to comment saying he was not aware that the petitions had been rejected.

On Tuesday in Parliament, former Speaker of Parliament, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt raised the matter questioning why the petitions were not tabled as per usual Parliamentary procedure.

But the 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.

A copy of the petition reads:

“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.

 

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