New electoral boundaries "nonsense"
The realignment of villages as part of the reformation of electoral constituencies has been described as "nonsense", driven more by political motivations than changing demographics.
The critique was offered by former District Court Judge and election candidate, Lefau Harry Schuster.
In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Lefau claims the rearrangement of villages particularly, in the Vaimauga electoral constituency is neither based on population nor traditional boundaries.
An example he used is the sub-village of Leone which comes under Apia being pushed in the Vaimauga III roll separating it from Apia that is now under Vaimauga IV.
“To me, looking at the [electoral] changes I don’t know what was used as the foundation to base it on,” said the former Member of Parliament.
“If you look at the constituency division of the village of Magiagi which is a sub-village of Vaiala and Moata'a it has also been placed under a different constituency from those villages of Vaimauga III.
“From how I see it, there is no balance in terms of the numbers and it makes no sense in terms of our traditional boundaries. It just doesn’t make sense…”
Village mayor of Apia, Tuiletufuga Tuimatafele Tuiavi,i said the village had objected to the separation of their sub-village of Leone from Apia some four years ago during the consultation.
He said the change is unreasonable considering that those families in Leone are rendering service to the village and are part of Apia.
Meanwhile, Lefau had asked whether the separation of the sub-villages of Leone and Magiagi from the other villages was necessary to make up the numbers for the constituencies.
“The question is, was Magiagi removed from where Moataa and Vaiala are placed because there weren’t enough numbers of electorates in that constituency,” said Lefau.
“The same question is also asked for removing the sub-village of Leone from Apia whether that made any sense too.
“The previous division of the constituency made total sense but these recent divisions are not based on the population number or even our traditional boundaries.”
Lefau added his concerns of the removal of one of the seats for Saleaula Savaii, that he said should have remained.
He said instead of removing the seat for Savaii, the office should have addressed the population issue in Upolu by adding seats in Upolu and maintaining seats in Savaii.
Contacted for a comment, Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio insists that the rearrangement of villages in the constituencies are purely for electoral purposes.
“Leone in its traditional status is a sub-village of Apia,” said Faimalo in response to queries.
“That traditional status hasn’t changed at all.”
Furthermore, the Electoral Commissioner reiterated the foundation behind the newly defined electoral constituencies.
He explained a technical team from New Zealand worked with the Office to define boundaries for the electoral purposes using the formula based on the number of voters and Census 2016.
“Following the initial findings, Savaii was only left with eleven electoral constituencies,” he said.
“We then submitted an advice that this will not work in our context.
“We then re-looked into the re-definition process and found that the bulk of our population is concentrated in Vaimauga, Faleata and Sagaga.
“So the formula of voters numbers was used to define the boundaries within these three constituencies.”
Faimalo added it was also an opportunity to address geographical anomalies that existed in the previous territorial constituencies set up.
For example, he said, the constituencies that have parts in Upolu and others in Savaii.
“So those are the issues that these new definitions of electoral boundaries had addressed,” he said.
“That hasn’t changed the number of “territorial constituencies” in Samoa and most important these changes have not changed the eleven traditional districts of Samoa.”
Another issue raised by Lefau is to do with villages under the Vaimauga IV that consists of mainly 24 unestablished villages with two established villages.
Lefau argued the division limits the rights of residence in that area to contest giving only those from Apia and Lalovaea the upper hand to run in the general election.
“The danger with this considering that the only service rendered that is recognised is the village monotaga would only give those in Apia and Lalovaea the right to run,” he said.
“All other people living in that area can only exercise their right to vote but in terms of candidacy that is out of the question.
“So there is that contradiction of your right to vote but when it comes to contesting that right doesn’t apply here.”
Faimalo previously addressed the same issue with the Faleata III seat relating to eligibility of those from the rural area moving into the urban area.
The Commissioner said that doesn’t mean those people are being prevented from running for elections.
“They are still eligible to run from the constituencies where they are matai and render their monotaga’s to,” he said.