Former Judge and M.P. slams Electoral laws

A former Member of Parliament and District Court Judge, Lefau Harry Schuster, has described the new eligibility rules for candidates under the Electoral law as "unfair" and "discriminating."

Lefau, who is also a candidate in next year's General Election, has called on the Government to consider holding off on implementing the changes until the 2026 General Election.

One of the major changes Lefau objected to is the service rendered to a village, or monotaga, as required by law. 

“First of all, it is from the outset an unfair and unreasonable law given the fact that to be qualified to be a candidate in the next election, you have to have performed monotaga in the constituency that you are running from for three years,” he said. 

“Having a constituency change just last year does not give three years notice to the people wanting to run to prepare themselves so they are qualified for the upcoming election. This will allow candidates time to change their circumstances so they meet the three year requirements if they want to run from that constituency in next year’s elections.”

Lefau said it appears that the purpose of the new laws is to limit the number of people who can run as candidates for the 2021 General Election.

On top of that, he said, just a few months ago, Parliament passed another law taking away religious contributions to be considered as monotaga. 

“This means for the last how many years of church contributions people made in reliance on that law is no longer counted as monotaga in order to qualify as a candidate,” he pointed out.

“The election is next year, the requirement for monotaga is three years to qualify as a candidate. 

“It is unfair that such a last minute change, right before election, not giving the candidates at least three years notice of this change so that they can change their circumstances to qualify for next election is again unfair and unreasonable law.”

The newly passed Electoral Act 2020 now defines monotaga as: the compulsory service, assistance or contribution rendered for customary [or] traditional activities, events, function or similar purposes pursuant to the customs of a particular village.

Another issue raised by Lefau is the change in the electoral constituency boundaries. He said this affects supporters or voters for candidates. 

“It's unfair in that a candidate may have had a strong support from a certain part of their constituency but under the new division those voters are no longer part of their constituency,” he said. 

“Therefore those people who voted for this candidate the last time can no longer vote for this candidate as they are now part of a different constituency that this candidate is no longer part of. This is a sudden change, giving very little time for those to prepare for the next elections.”

A lawyer with over 30 years of experience, Lefau said it appears some Parliamentarians deliberately came up with the law to suit themselves and their motives.

He made reference to a provision on the electoral law that exempts current M.Ps from the requirements for candidates contesting the election. 

He said a more reasonable approach for the Government would be for the changes not to be effective in next year's General Election.

“This is what makes it more unfair and unreasonable because the Government exempts current M.Ps who are all H.R.P.P. members,” he said. 

“The way I see it there is special treatment given to M.Ps who are H.R.P.P. members who are affected with the changes in the constituencies and everyone else is left to have to deal with this unfair treatment.”

Under the Electoral Act section 156 “a Member is for the purpose of section 8(1)(e) exempted from the requirements under that section if the Member at the commencement of this Act represents a constituency that will be divided or newly formed, as a result of an enactment regarding constituencies.”

Lefau said those M.Ps who are affected under the new changes, the law does not apply to them in April’s General Election.

“This special treatment is only for members of parliament giving them an unfair advantage over all other candidates who are not sitting members of parliament,” he argued. 

“The worst part is that all the members of parliament affected by the new changes with the constituency are all H.R.P.P. members giving the impression that H.R.P.P. is using their position as the majority in parliament and as the Government to give themselves protection against these new laws, a protection that is not equally available to all potential candidates.”

Bg pattern light


Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?