Culture vs the law
The Acting Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, says the situation in Samoa when it comes to the law and culture is unique.
“I don’t think there is any other country in this world that does (what we have seen in Samoa),” he said.
“Personally, whether that has stopped the law from being fully enforced, we are yet to see because nothing (allegation) was ever proven.”
The Acting Commissioner, who is also a lawyer, made the comments in response to questions from the Samoa Observer about the number of election petitions being withdrawn.
Of six petitions filed last month, only two are proceeding with hearings starting yesterday.
The rest of the matters however have been withdrawn with speculations about monetary settlements being made.
Faimalomatumua would not speculate about the alleged settlements but said such things are illegal.
“It’s hard to comment on hearsay,” he said. “What I can say is that if there is money involved, there is a provision in the legislation to charge them on that.
“But we don’t know. It could that the matai are performing their role to iron things out. And in that case, I cannot comment on those internal matters that are specific to the constituencies.”
The Acting Commissioner added that his Office had committed a lot of time and resources in raising awareness about the need to have a clean and fair election for everyone.
But he said the competing nature of the culture and the law has been a constant challenge.
“At the end of the elections, there were a lot of people talking about it (bribery) and we thought it would all end up in here (Court),” he said.
“But as we saw, a lot of it did not reach the Court.
“We also have to wonder about the nature of petitions. Its gone through the process and the law allows for cases to be withdrawn … we are talking about two competing issues in our legislation – our culture and formal law.”
According to Faimalo, culture is an important part of who we are as a people.
But the law should also be allowed to take its course. He said that it would have been great to see the allegations put to a hearing.
In the meantime, the Electoral Office is already moving towards preparations for the 2021 general election.
The office will be releasing electoral roll to all constituencies in Upolu and Savai’i for the constituents to scrutinize their roll.
“They are the only people that know who lives in the village and who doesn’t,” he said.
“Sadly not many people utilised that opportunity in the last election and had only come in during a week before the election. There is a provision under the law that emphasises the eligibility of the voter.”
Faimalo said the electoral rolls need to be cleaned up and believes that 95 percent of the election depends on the accuracy of the roll.