Village Mayors accused of obstructing candidates
The Secretary of Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) political party, Va'aaoao Salu Alofipo, says several of its election candidates are facing discrimination from village representatives seeking to obstruct their nominations.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer on Monday, Va'aaoao said five F.A.S.T. candidates have encountered difficulty registering for the 2021 General Election due to incomplete paperwork.
The incomplete paperwork, Va'aaoao said, is caused by village mayors (Sui o le nu’u) or women representatives (Sui tamaitai o le nuu) refusing to endorse them to stand for Parliament.
“We are sad about this because it reflects the biases and discriminatory conduct of [people in] such positions,” he said.
“These are positions of the Government and they are responsible for the signing of these papers and yet they keep running away avoiding our candidates.
“We cannot find them; they just run away from the candidate whenever we try to approach them.”
He revealed that there are five candidates from F.A.S.T. who have been affected by so far and that the Electoral Commissioner has been informed.
Candidates who are being held back by incomplete paperwork include Paloa Louisa Stowers from the Faleata No. 3 constituency, Papali'i Panoa Moala from Sagaga No.1, Fata Meafou from Sagaga No. 2 and Vui Sione Masinamua from Fa'asaleleaga No. 5.
The other, unnamed candidate was able to complete his registration process only after having five affidavits submitted by chiefs of their village directly to the Commissioner.
According to the Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, it is illegal for a village mayor to avoid signing a candidate’s election form without a valid reason.
Faimalo said “unless” a mayor had a valid reason for doing so they were obliged to endorse a candidate.
Faimalo said it was possible that a candidate who had their nomination to stand for Parliament frustrated in this fashion by a mayor without due cause could possibly have grounds to initiate a lawsuit.
One of the valid reasons that would allow a village mayor to avoid signing a candidate’s documents would be the candidate’s failure to meet their monotaga (local contribution) requirement.
However, Va’aaoao insisted that their candidates have satisfied monotaga obligations.
“Why are they treating us differently compared to other political parties?,” he asked. “Are we not citizens of Samoa? What a pity. They should be giving everyone an equal opportunity. Our right to enter the general election is being suppressed.”
“I believe it seems the already endorsed candidate is stopping the representatives from signing on other candidates to reduce competition or they may be family, but it is unacceptable. They are village representatives; this is their role.”
Under the Electoral Act 2019, monotaga is defined as the compulsory service, assistance or contribution in the form of cash, kind or goods rendered for customary, traditional or religious activities, events, function or similar purposes in a particular village.
The document filled out by village mayors is amongst other paperwork, including confirmation of a candidate’s citizenship, their matai title certification, and residential status, that are required to register as candidates.