P.M. Tuilaepa cautions against overseas Samoans voting
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has cautioned voters to be wary of a policy being promoted by rival party Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi [F.A.S.T.] to allow overseas Samoans to vote.
Speaking during his weekly programme on TV1, Tuilaepa said he rejects the proposal promoted by the F.A.S.T. during the party’s launch last Friday as citizens living in-country knew the best candidates to represent them.
He emphasised that there are over 750,000 Samoans living overseas and close to 200,000 within the country, which would make the voting outcome lopsided in favour of Samoans living abroad.
“Absentee ballots are always an issue that America and New Zealand elections face during their elections and we will not attempt it no matter what,” he said.
“And some of the issues to be considered are that local people know the candidates/members of Parliament, versus those that are overseas only know of these people through what is publicized over social media.”
“And so this means the Samoans overseas will dominate and decide the leaders that will rule the country. If they want to vote, they can get on the plane and come to Samoa to cast their ballot.”
Tuilaepa claimed that previous Samoan Prime Ministers did not entertain absentee ballots because they knew the “danger” that it presented.
However, the contribution of Samoans living abroad to the welfare of their families living in the country through remittances was not lost on the Prime Minister.
“I commend them for sending funds to assist their families. Nevertheless it is their duty to provide for their parents and siblings here in Samoa, in turn families here are looking after the family properties, and those remittances do not necessarily mean they can automatically vote. [It is] your duty to help your family, do not confuse the two.”
At the launching of the F.A.S.T., party founder and Member of Parliament for Gagaifomauga No. 3, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao, vowed to change electoral laws to allow Samoans abroad to vote in the general election.
He argued that their contribution to the Samoan economy through annual remittances gave them the right to participate in the electoral process.
“The truth is the might of God’s love is shown through the money they send every day, every week, every month and every year,” he said.
“$600 million is their contribution into this economy yearly and yet the Government says they are people who have wandered too much (tafao vale) and doing nothing (ka’a),” he said.
Speaking to overseas Samoans, La’auli assured them that their contribution will not go unnoticed as the F.A.S.T. will push to recognize their rights to vote for the leaders of Samoa, should they win the 2021 General Election.
“The money they send weekly is never below $10 million and then we see, where does it go?,” he said.”
“This is the money that goes into raising families, developing churches and our Government. And who is benefiting from this?”
In May this year the former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, also expressed similar sentiments and made reference to the remittances Samoans abroad send.
Tui Atua, who is also a former Prime Minister and Opposition leader, made the point during a press conference at his Tuaefu residence on Friday, where he reminded that remittances (or money sent by Samoans living overseas) continues to be the lifeblood of the Samoan economy.