P.M.'s "deputy" says Electoral law "contradictory"
The Associate Minister for the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga, has drilled holes in the new Electoral Act 2019, describing one of the amendments designed to address geographical issues as "contradictory."
Peseta made the point in Parliament on Tuesday during an urgent sitting to discuss and pass amendments to the Act.
The veteran Member of Parliament had raised eyebrows when he criticised an amendment in relation to the eligibility of candidates.
Peseta's criticisms saw Member of Parliament for Salega East, Olo Fiti Vaai, took the floor. Referring to Peseta as Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi's "deputy," Olo said that even Tuilaepa's closest allies do not even understand a law introduced by his Government.
But Prime Minister Tuilaepa disputed this saying Olo has got the wrong person. He said the law belongs to the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration. He then spelled out the Minister's name, which was met with laughter from the floor.
Back to Peseta, the Associate Minister questioned an amendment which would allow a matai who renders service to Leauva’a to contest the Gagaemauga No. 1 seat in Savai’i.
The Gagaemauga No. 1 electoral constituency boundary was recently redefined, removing the village of Leauva’a from the roll and dissolving the Gagaemauga No. 2 seat.
According to the new division, villagers of Leauva’a now have to vote in the Sagaga III seat with Aleisa West and Aleisa Sisifo residents.
But the law allows a matai from Leauva'a to run for Parliament as a candidate for Gagaemauga No. 2.
Peseta questioned this loophole. He argued that the matai from Leauva’a is not rendering service in Savai’i and yet he/she would be allowed to contest the seat that belongs to Saleaula, Patamea, Mauga and Samalaeulu.
“But we have a law that a matai has to render three years of service to that village [in the constituency],” argued the M.P.
“This is not appropriate for a matai from another village running from a village in Savai’i where he does not render his monotaga.”
The Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u, took the floor to clarify the amendment. He told the Associate Minister that this is the only way to ensure consistency in terms of chances afforded and that monotaga requirement for candidacy is satisfied.
The Minister of Education Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, also interjected. He said the explanation from the Minister on the matter was quite clear but he does not understand why Peseta was using Leauva’a and Samalaeulu as an example when he is from another constituency.
Peseta is the M.P. for Fa’asaleleaga No. 4.
“It seems that the member also wants to run from Samalaeulu for him to raise questions about Samalaeulu and Leauva’a,” said Loau.
In response, Peseta said he understood the amendments after the Electoral Commissioner explained it to him during the pre-parliament briefing.
However, he said that he wanted to raise it again in Parliament because he also wants to understand which village mayor will be used to confirm the candidate's registration.
The point he made is if a matai from Leauva’a is running from the seat in Savai’i then which village mayor will confirm his candidacy, the one from the village or the village mayor of Samalaeulu. He said this could cause problems for village mayor.
Peseta added this might lead to village mayor of Samalaeulu giving a false oath by confirming a monotaga for a candidate that is from Leauva’a when the matai is not rendering service to Samalaeulu.
Lastly, Peseta emphasised that the seat in Gagaemauga No. 1 has been defined for those living in Patamea, Mauga, Samalaeulu and Saleaula.
“I accept the bill if those with matai titles in Savai’i and render their service in Savai’i are to contest the seats in Savai'i,” he said.
“Different villages have different protocols and that is the difference between that from Leauva’a and Savai’i…”
In response, Fa’aolesa said the provision is only for the upcoming General Election to allow candidates from Leauva’a to use their monotaga to run from Samalaeulu.
The law has been passed.