La'auli slams Govt. over Electoral Law

Veteran Member of Parliament, La'aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, has blasted the Government over the recent developments in relation to the Electoral Act 2019, saying the law is "discriminatory" and "unfair."

La'auli, who is the Chairman of the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Party, has also accused the Government of formulating the law solely to protect certain Cabinet  Ministers.

The former Speaker of Parliament and Gagaifomauga No. 3 M.P. made the comments during an interview with Radio Samoa's Tanoa Ava Show where he was highly critical of his former party, including the leader and Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi.

"This law has created a lot of debates and discussions," said La'auli.  "This same law was the reason why they sacked me from the ruling Human Rights Protection Party because I have been vocally against it a few times in Parliament, regarding some of the substances in this law. 

"As I said before, this law was not created with good intentions. There were some areas they should've considered carefully. That is why I did not back down but stood firmly to remind them, to consider all areas that could be affected by this law, because of the implications it would have and the debates that would arise from it."

La'auli remembered how he and Independent M.P., Olo Fiti Va'ai, stood boldly in their arguments against the electoral changes in Parliament. 

He also praised the courage of some chiefs who have challenged the electoral law in court.  Aspiring politicians, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio and Papalii Panoa Tavita, had filed a lawsuit against the Electoral Act 2019 resulting in an agreement for the Government redraft parts of the Electoral Act.

La'aui reiterated that the Electoral Law and the changes were made only to protect members of the H.R.P.P. 

"The law affects those with the desire to run in the election. That is why I objected to these changes," he said. 

"That is why we signed a petition, with Church leaders and handed it. However, they also made up a trick for the petition not to be recognised in Parliament. Twenty-two constituencies are affected because of the eligibility requirement for service rendered to a village, or monotaga, as required by law.  

"There were so many changes done under this law as it created newly formed constituencies or divided existing ones in 2019. Two urban seats were removed and more than a dozen other constituencies had villages removed or added. The law was unfairly made..."

He also slammed the Act saying it has destroyed "our Samoan cultural values and beliefs."

"Basically, it says that if we talk about electoral boundaries, there is no need to drag in our culture and customs. They have labeled the electoral constituencies with numbers- Constituency 1,2,3. 

"So does this mean that the elected Member of Parliament is an electoral representative not culturally? Does this mean that the M.P. walks in Parliament without cultural honor and salutations? 

"A classic example, Salamumu is now part of the Safata electoral constituency. So what is going to happen if a candidate from Salamumu wins the seat for the Safata? How will the constituency of Safata feel? Because they are Salamumu is not their flesh and blood, and are not natives of the lands. 

"The division we had was a result of the hard work of our ancestors. So the changes made to electoral boundaries were unnecessary. The law is discriminating."

He again questioned the rationale of the act. 

"Does it protect (the) only two Members who are in Parliament, but about the other 20 from the 20 constituencies that were affected under this law?"

Lastly, La'auli believes that changes should be made "fairly" for everyone and "not just Cabinet Ministers."

"They should make laws that will benefit everyone and our people, not just H.R.P.P. members. 

"If it was created in the first place to protect the Minister of M.W.T.I., they should reconsider and amend this law so it is fair for everyone."

Questions about La'auli's claims were passed on to the Press Secretariat, Nanai Lave Tuiletufuga. He acknowledged receipt of the questions but a response was not available at press time. 

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