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Tuilaepa rules out overseas voting

The Government will not entertain absentee voting for overseas-based Samoans, the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has declared.

Speaking on his weekly radio programme on 2AP on Thursday, Tuilaepa ruled out introducing overseas or absentee ballots for citizens residing abroad in the future.

“If you want to vote you’ll have to come to Samoa - and if your name is on the roll you can cast your ballot,” the Prime Minister said.

“I want to address this issue because it has been popping up every now and then.

"This started from the time when [Fiame] Mata'afa [Faumuina Mulinu'u II was] Prime Minister, and it has not changed. 

“This was carried on to Tupua Tamasese Lealofi; then Tupuola Efi, Vaai Kolone; Tofilau Eti Alesana and me we all shared the same view on this and it will not happen. 

“Whoever that wants to vote, get on the plane; come and vote. If your name is on the roll, by all means come and vote no one will stop you."

He said sending absentee ballots from overseas could open the door to corrupt practices. 

“The [Samoan nationals] overseas that want to vote, they can come and vote in the country,” he said. 

He said there are many concerns and many things that could go wrong if this policy was considered.

“For those in New Zealand, there is no assurance that you are casting the ballot, it may be a Maori, and not you. But to be absolutely sure, you must get on the plane and come to Samoa to cast your vote," Tuilaepa said.

“This also shows that you are patriotic about being a Samoan national, you must come and vote in person.” 

The matter of absentee ballot was first addressed by the former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi. 

He revived a call for Samoans living abroad and who are eligible to vote, to cast ballots in next year’s general election.

Tui Atua, who is also a former Prime Minister and Opposition leader, reminded that remittances or money sent by Samoans living overseas continues to be the lifeblood of the Samoan economy.

Figures from the 2018-2019 Financial Year show that Samoa collected more than $530 million in remittances. At that time this accounted for a 10 per cent increase from the previous financial year. 

To recognise the development of Samoa through those remittances, Tui Atua said it is time the Government considers giving those Samoans the opportunity to cast their votes. 

He said the Government couldn’t continue to deny the rights of those living abroad who provide security to their relatives in Samoa

"How do you reciprocate such love?” Tui Atua asked.

“Samoan people continue to show this love every day to their families and you have seen it with millions pouring in the country. 

“In my opinion, is there a reason why we cannot reciprocate this love or do we just accept the good and not return this love that can recognise our people and their service…how do you [respond to] that love?” 

He said at the time that travel would be costly and those living abroad would find it problematic to travel back to the island to vote. 

The former Head of State said the Government’s opposition to granting nationals overseas voting rights was politically motivated. 

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