Election corruption? What have they been doing all these years?

MK
By Mata'afa Keni Lesa, 18 February 2019

And so once more, Prime Minster Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his administration have declared war on election corruption. 

Who doesn’t get excited about this stuff? 

We say this knowing that corruption, especially when it comes to political elections, has not been stopped. Anywhere. 

Experiences from all over the world – including some of the oldest democracies – show that wherever there is an election with powerful political positions at stake – corruption is always involved. It is part of the fabric and that’s because it’s human nature to always want to get ahead by cheating. Which means that as long as humans are involved in elections, you can guarantee that corruption is bound to be lurking around the corner. 

Now here in Samoa today, the Prime Minister wants to avoid corruption altogether. Quite a bold statement if you ask me.

Indeed with two years to go before the next General Election, the Prime Minister has made it their absolute priority to stop corruption. 

But not the way some of us would think. 

So how are they planning to achieve this?

Well all you have to do is read page 2 of the Samoa Observer yesterday where the story titled “We’re trying to avoid a corrupt election” was published. It was an interesting read, where Tuilaepa once again used his Government’s mission against corruption to justify ramming through amendments to the Constitution.

These amendments – which have been passed in Parliament by the way – have redefined the traditional boundaries of Samoa. It met some stern opposition in Parliament, including from former Cabinet Minister, Laauli Leuatea Polataivao, whose decision to oppose it, could well cost him his future in Parliament. 

Still, Tuilaepa just cannot help himself and so during his weekly media programme, he delved into the issue again.

 “We are trying to avoid having a corrupt election,” he said, adding that the laws had to be amended in order for the voters to vote in their constituencies. This will allow the opportunity for people in the villages to monitor the voters roll, to determine whether you are from that village or not. The issue here is that we don’t want people, who are not from the village, to make decisions that will impact the village.”

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“People in the village know their candidates, unlike people who live elsewhere and vote here, due to influence of the candidate, is why this is important.”

Tuilaepa has a point here. But he continues by saying another issue is the practice of business owners in Apia running for public office, and registering their employees in their constituencies to vote for them.  

 “There are candidates that are from Apia who have registered people in Apia to vote in their constituency, and yet these people are not from Apia, this is what we are trying to avoid,” he said. 

“We want to remove corruption from the election process. We want the winners to be voted in legally not win through illegal practices. Your vote should be based on the whispering of the Holy Spirit and whom you feel you should vote for.”

Well of course your vote is your vote. And yes we can ask the Spirit to help but at the end of the day, that is not how Samoans have been voting. They are unlikely to change that in a hurry too.

Samoans vote first and foremost along blood and family lines. And when that happens, the issue of corruption is never far off. That’s because there is no room for an individual choice, and the spirit is the last thing one would consult.

And then you have got the issue of corruption. Let’s be brutally honest here, we live in a country where it has been proven that people’s votes can be bought, with as little as $10 tala. We’ve seen hundreds of petitions after the elections over the years where this has been highlighted.

The point is that voters are not the only ones susceptible to corruption when it comes to the election. The candidates and their political affiliations are the worst ones when it comes to bribery and treating. The history of Samoa’s elections exists to remind us.

Then you have the Government and their systems, which are designed to keep the current party in power. Out there in the villages, the Government has literally got all the village mayors – including women representatives now – in its pocket. They are paid to promote the Government’s agenda, whatever that is. 

A few weeks before the election, multi-million-tala projects funded by aid and donor partners are strategically launched and opened. Under the guise of Samoan culture, villages, organisations and small communities where these projects are opened, get pasese, lafo and food. Is that not corruption too? 

This is precisely what has been happening for all these years. We all live in Samoa, we’ve seen this and we continue to see it time and time again. Not all fools are idiots.

You see, the H.R.P.P. has been in power since 1982.  That is 37 years of winning elections, which is a mighty impressive achievement by any standard, anywhere in the world.

In 2019 this Government is suddenly all guns blazing on finally stopping election corruption? Great stuff. What person in their right mind could possibly object to such an honourable gesture? 

But here are some questions, is this really the root of election corruption in Samoa? Since this law is passed, does it mean we will no longer see any petitions at the end of the next General Election? What about the corruption of yesteryears?  Lastly, since the HRPP has been in power for close to 40 years and only in 2019 – where corruption has finally surfaced as a stumbling block according to them that they need to change the Constitution, what have they been doing all these years?

Write and share your thoughts with us. Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

MK
By Mata'afa Keni Lesa, 18 February 2019

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