Overseas donations bankrolling F.A.S.T. campaign

Donations to the Fa’atuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) have topped $1.6 million, with overseas contributions vastly outstripping local donations, party Treasurer Faumuina Wayne Fong says.

According to official party figures, $255,000 has been donated through the party’s constituency contribution project, while $1,120,880 has come from overseas donors.

Faumuina said the bulk of overseas supporters’ generosity had financed the party's campaign for the 9 April poll. He says the same people who contributed via online F.A.S.T. support groups have continued sending money to assist in the party’s preparations.

Faumuina said little financial support could be generated from the local community. 

“People still contribute; the same people that donated from F.A.S.T. support groups, from Alaska, in the whole of America, from California all the way up to New York, especially in Hawaii and American Samoa; also New Zealand and Australia,” he said.

“These were all put together, and that’s how we got that amount. These are the total donations, and as far as we know, these are all donations.

“We sent out some letters asking for assistance from our local community and only a handful of people donated, not even ten companies, and we understand that they are relying on the Government, and it's okay.”

The Faleata No. 2 candidate said all funds have been spent on campaigning since the party’s founding. 

“We used it for our signage, our banners, posters, our website, and we used it for our roadshow; I think the bulk of the money went to the roadshow,” he said.

“Our transportation, to Savai’i and around Savai’i, and also around Upolu, as well as our camera crew - those who we employed to take care of our media duties.”

Party funds also covered the legal fees of candidates subject to legal challenges, the Treasurer said. 

They included appeals against nomination disqualifications and Faumuina’s own successful challenge, with colleague Olo Fiti Vaai, against a ruling vacating the seats of both then-M.P.s. from Parliament for breaching anti-party hopping rules. 

In December, the Supreme Court overturned a decision by the former Speaker, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi, to vacate the seats of then Salega East’s Olo Fiti Vaai, and Urban West’s Faumuina. The court found the decision violated the independent former M.P.s’ constitutional rights.

Faumuina was not able to account for complete estimates on the spending of party donations when asked. 

A certain amount of cash has also been set aside for potential legal petitions following the April general Elections, Faumuina added.

A F.A.S.T. Radio telethon event held earlier this month brought in a total of $267,854, Faumuina said.

He said the bulk of that money came from Samoan donors ($166,196); New Zealand ($44,298) the United States of America ($36,900) and Australia ($20,460).

“These are all supporters’ donations, from the start, and it was part of our radiothon to declare all the donations that were brought in,” said Faumuina.

“And that included the constituency contributions. The constituency contribution project was initiated by overseas supporters.

“So those from each respective constituency would organise their own events and send through their $5000; some of the constituencies sent more than $10,000 which covered other constituencies where we don’t have candidates, like Faleata No. 4 and Faleata No. 3.

“There was no other way for us to declare the source of these donations and that’s why we used the radiothon day to announce it.”

He said the only constituency who did not contribute to the political party was Lepa; the seat represented by the caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi.

Faumuina assured said the party’s accounts will be audited subject to regulations of the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L.).

“We have already registered with M.C.I.L. and so we will have to report to the M.C.I.L. We’re not going to hide anything, it’s all right there,” he said.

“So as soon as we have our A.G.M. (Annual General Meeting), we’ll submit our financial statements and submit one for the M.C.I.L.

“But like I said, all the donations that were given to us, was to assist us with our current campaign, up until the general election. But the executive will meet again to see what the next phase is for our campaign but basically, all this money that was donated was for campaign purposes.”

The party's manifesto, released last Friday, lists among its first eight priorities, a commitment to: "Recognise the contribution of the Samoan diaspora overseas."

If elected, F.A.S.T. promises to advocate to allow Samoan citizens living overseas to participate in elections. 

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