M.P. questions Village Mayors' authority

The authority of Village Mayors came under scrutiny during the discussion on the amendments to Electoral Act to determine the eligibility of voters has been questioned by the Member of Parliament for Fa’asaleleaga No. 2

In Parliament last week, Namulau'ulu Papalii Sami Leota, questioned the degree of authority given to Village Mayors under the amendments, citing past decisions by Mayors.  

“After the [last by-election] two village mayors were cited by the Office of the Electoral Commission,” he said.

“What happened was that one Village Mayor was involved in the committee of another candidate and therefore [she] made claims which led to the removal of five voters from the Fa’asaleleaga No. 2 roll.

“And these claims were accepted by the Office of the Electoral Commission, without proper due diligence.”

The Office of the Electoral Commission's authority predates the passage of amendments on Tuesday. But the M.P. took the occasion of Parliament's debate on electoral law to suggest the Office of the Electoral Commission to consider his concerns.

He urged the Office of the Electoral Commission to perform due diligence before proceeding to file charges against any voter. 

His concerns were raised during the amendments to the Electoral Act 2019, which was discussed and passed by Parliament on Tuesday,

“Honorable Speaker there were five voters who were removed [because of] changes to the Electoral Act 2019, discussed and passed by Parliament," he said. 

“However when the matter reached court, it was revealed these voters were in fact residents of my constituency. 

"They work in Apia but they are residents of Savaii. 

“My concern is that the Electoral Office should do their due diligence instead of relying on information given by the Village Mayors.” 

Namulau’ulu said this is dangerous and there should be no room for recklessness on the part of the Electoral office. 

“If the election was hanging in a balance and we had to rely on these [five] voters, it would have been a disaster. My request is for the [Electoral] Office to do their due diligence before they charge people and take them before the court,” said the Fa’asaleleaga No. 2 M.P. 

He also pointed out that two Village Mayors were charged by the Commissioner after the by-election in 2019. One case remains pending in court. 

“The burden that is carried by the said Village Mayor is something to be considered,” he said. 

“Also this village mayor travels to Apia on several occasions only for the case to be postponed in court.”

The Fa’asaleleaga No. 2 M.P. urged the Office of the Electoral Commission that if they are filing charges against a Village Mayor, they should make sure they have evidence to back up their claim, given that one of their cases was dismissed. 

“When a Village Mayor is facing charges it is not easy to bear the burden of walking around in shame knowing he has been charged and that is something the [Commission] should highly consider before they proceed to charge anyone,” said Namulau’ulu.   


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