Voting a matter of human rights
Election candidate and former leader of the Tautua Samoa Party, Vaai Papu, is not giving up the fight to allow Samoans living abroad to cast their votes from wherever they are.
Although the idea has been firmly rejected by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, Vaai said it is an issue that must be pursued because it is a matter of people’s Constitutional rights.
Vaai said he was particularly concerned about hundreds of men and women from the villages who will not be able to cast their votes because they are away on the Regional Seasonal Employment scheme.
“We are not saying that every Samoan living overseas should be allowed,” said Vaai.
Vaai said Samoans living overseas still need to come to Samoa to be registered at the Office of the Electoral Commission.
“So whoever is on the registration, if they are overseas during this period (election), they can go to the Samoa consular office in New Zealand, have their registration checked and cast their vote,” he said.
“This is particularly important for our people who might miss out on election because they had to leave the country to pick apples and oranges overseas.
“Not only for them but for our Samoan people who are working overseas and want to be part of the election but cannot leave their work.”
Vaai asked what is the point of Samoans being able to register but cannot exercise their rights to vote because they are away from the country.
“All we are asking for is a facility for people to cast their votes,” he said.
Tautua Samoa Leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II said many Samoans living overseas cannot leave work and come to Samoa to cast their votes and serve their monotaga.
Should the Tautua Samoa win this Friday’s General Elections, Palusalue said they would review the issue.
“We will do our research first,” he said. “From that research, we can start with the matai for example,” said Palu.
“These matai living overseas can provide their confirmation of their matai paper before they cast their votes.
“We are not saying every Samoan can vote, of course that is not possible…for the Prime Minister to say that Samoa will be dictated from overseas that is unlikely to happen and it won’t happen.”
Incumbent M.P for Salega, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele shared his views.
Afualo questioned why the political party (Human Rights Protection Party) is always quick to go overseas to fundraise and when it comes to Samoans overseas votes they turn a deaf ear.
“They have a lot of contribution to our development,” said Afualo.
“It’s sad because they are always quick to jump on the plane to go find money there but when they are asked about the needs of those people they ignore it.
“We are not saying everyone should vote…there are requirements they need to fulfill.”
In a recent interview with the media, Caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi expressed his strong opposition to the idea.
Tuilaepa warned that the decisions for Samoa will be dictated from overseas if this happens.
“If you want to vote, you get on the plane and come here,” Tuilaepa said.
“We are not stopping our people living overseas from voting but they have to get on the plane to do that. But to suggest that we set up offices overseas for this, the first Prime Minister did not accept this and I don’t accept it too.
“If we open this up, people living here will lose the power to decide for themselves. The country would be governed from overseas because there are a lot more Samoans abroad.”