Electoral Commissioner counterattacks
The Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, has responded to recent allegations and criticism that a string of recent decisions and announcements by his office have been ill-advised or improper.
In a press statement issued on Wednesday night, Faimalo maintains the integrity of the Office of the Electoral Commission (O.E.C.)
The statement was to address several issues brought up by the media that were raised by members of the political party Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) concerning the O.E.C.
The leader of F.A.S.T., Fiame Naomi Mata’afa fronted the media this week accusing Faimalo of bias and issuing contradicting notices to cause doubt to the General Election results.
Fiame raised three points, in relation to the official results declared by O.E.C., the additional women in parliament and the independent members having joined F.A.S.T.
In response to the allegations, Electoral Commissioner said “we wish to reiterate that the O.E.C. is independent, transparent and accountable”.
“The O.E.C. is mandated to carry out elections which was executed in accordance with the laws that govern the work of the O.E.C.,” he said.
“Any suggestions or implications otherwise are ill-advised and ill-conceived.”
The Commissioner did not comment in details about the activation of Article 44(1A) of the Constitution that lead to the addition of Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tu’uau as a member of the House.
This is due to the matter pending in Court, he said.
Secondly, Faimalo responded to criticisms surrounding the use of social media (Facebook) to release information.
“O.E.C. utilises social media, traditional and online media to release pertinent information relating to the election to ensure that members of the public receive information in a timely manner,” he said in the statement.
“Information is released on social media as they become available.
“This has been the practice of the O.E.C. since 2014.”
Fiame, in a press conference this week raised issues about the contradicting notices and comments made by the Electoral Commissioner.
She referred to a notice that was posted on the O.E.C. Facebook page that declared the election results with F.A.S.T. holding 25 seats, the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) on 25 and one Independent, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio.
In a separate notice that was circulated to certain media outlets, the Commissioner declared the election results as F.A.S.T. 24 seats, H.R.P.P. 26 seats and two Independents.
The notice signed by the Commissioner noted Fiame and Tuala as two Independent members and recorded the additional member Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tu’uau on the list.
“He has contradicted himself on what he had disclosed after the election and the official results where F.A.S.T. has 25, H.R.P.P. 25 and one Independent,” said Fiame.
“Firstly I was counted in the 25 for the official results for F.A.S.T. and the country is well aware that Tuala officially joined F.A.S.T. last week… which means it's confirmed that our political party has secured 26 seats.”
She added that the change of tune from the Commissioner can only be seen as a way to give the H.R.P.P. the majority number and reduce F.A.S.T. to 24 seats.
But the Commissioner said the O.E.C. has already explained its position on the matter regarding Independent members.
“The “Official Documents” note the standing of all candidates including Independent,” he said.
“The Standing Orders of the Parliament of Samoa clearly outlines the process of recognition of political parties and candidate affiliation in Part VII.”
The standing order specifies section 21 for recognition of parties that “at the commencement of each Parliament any group of members of not less than eight shall be recognised as a party in Parliament on its leader notifying the Speaker…”
In addition for parliamentary purposes, “any member who takes the Oath of Allegiance before he or she is notified under a party as required by (2)(c) of this Order shall be recognized as an independent member for the duration of the parliamentary term.”
The Electoral Commissioner advised that “the new Parliament has yet to commence as per requirement of Order 21(1) to initiate the process of officially recognising Political Parties and Members in Parliament.”