Senior M.P. pleas for Government to reconsider electoral boundaries
One of the oldest Members of Parliament, Fa’asootauloa Pati Taulapapa, has made an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi and the Government to reconsider the division of electoral boundaries, which has seen the territorial constituency of Gagaemauga No. 2, divided.
The Associate Minister and senior Member of Parliament has also reminded Tuilaepa that Samoa's boundaries have already been demarcated based on traditions and honorifics. For this reason, Fa'aso'o believes it is paramount that Prime Minister Tuilaepa reconsider the new division of electoral boundaries.
The change moved by the Electoral Office became law last year. It has seen Gagaemauga No. 2, which consists of Saleaula in Savaii and Salamumu in Upolu, divided, severing the village's traditional ties in terms of cultural honorifics.
In the 2021 General Election, Salamumu villagers will vote in the Safata 1 seat with Saanapu, Sataoa and Lotofaga. Voters in Saleaula will have to vote for Gagaemauga No. 1 with Patamea, Samalaeulu and Mauga.
But Fa'aso'o, who has represented Gagaemauga No. 2 for many years, told Parliament this week that Samoa has already been divinely appointed with the authority from Tumua ma Pule.
“I had talked with the Prime Minister and my constituency had also visited the Parliamentary Committee," Fa'aso'o said.
In 2019, the chiefs of Salamumu and Saleaula presented a petition in Parliament to oppose the then Electoral Amendment Bill 2019 on the new division laid out by the Electoral Office.
Fa'aso'o said he visited the Prime Minister at the time.
“The word from the Prime Minister is this is only a trial to see if it is appropriate or not," Fa'aso'o said.
“The authority conferred on the constituency was based on the authority of Puleono, Tumua ma Salafai, not based on electoral division.
“I humbly request the Government to give back the division of our electoral constituency according to the appointment and authority on Tumua and Pule...”
The call from the M.P. for Gagaemauga No. 2 was prompted by the response from the Minister of Justice, and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainuu, who is also responsible for the Electoral Office.
Fa’aolesa touched on issues raised by M.P. La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao last week that Saleaula has a lower chance of gaining a seat in next Parliament term due to the electoral constituency changes.
Fa’asootauloa had expressed disappointment in the Legislative Assembly of his constituency being the subject of debate while he was silently observing the exchange.
Fa’aolesa in response to matters raised in the budget debate said the new division of electorates does not take away the importance of the traditional boundaries of the constituency.
He explained the new division is not based on those traditional boundaries but are using the “fa’apapalagi electoral process” to elect members in the House.
The response drew objection from Fa’asootauloa requesting the Government to reconsider their decision to divide his constituency.
Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi advised the Minister of Justice to move on from the topic as it has already been well explained by the Prime Minister last week.
Prime Minister, Tuliaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi in clarifying the issue raised by La’auli last week said the new division is to equally accommodate the number of people residing in constituencies.
He said the constituency’s with two M.Ps are based on the ratio of constituents to M.Ps.
Tuilaepa added the election is a western practice and noted to ensure the harmony with customs the ratio was set as a guideline for the number of M.Ps per constituency.
Furthermore, he said the village salutations will be altered to accommodate the changes.
He assured the electoral constituencies will not override traditional constituencies’ boundaries as implied by others.