P.M. challenges Fiame on independence of Electoral Office
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, wants Member of Parliament for Lotofaga, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, to clarify her recent call to make the Office of the Electoral Commissioner independent.
He has also challenged his former deputy to “explain exactly what independence” means in reference to the Commissioner.
He said electoral laws are made after Commissions of Inquiries at which “corruption issues” uncovered during elections are addressed with new laws to ensure they are not repeated.
The comments from the Prime Minister follow concerns raised by former Deputy Prime Minister Fiame during the discussion and approval of the Electoral Amendments 2020.
The Prime Minister added that more changes to the Electoral Act were coming.
Fiame had said the Office of the Electoral Commissioner should be independent and without any political affiliation.
“Mr. Speaker, it appears from the dialogue that just because we are Members of the Legislative Assembly, it seems that we make legislation that protects those in Parliament, or others that support different political parties,” she said.
“Honourable Speaker, this is why I believe it is important for the Office of the Electoral Commissioner to be independent because it is different from our circle of people that deal with legislation and politics.
“We need to protect it to ensure the independence of this office to guarantee there is equality in our elections and our electoral laws so that there is no bias or discrimination against others.”
Speaking on his weekly radio programme on 2AP, the Prime Minister said the Electoral Commissioner was independent.
He then referenced the changes to the Electoral Amendments 2020, passed on Tuesday, which close what Tuilaepa described as a loophole allowing “dishonest M.P.s” to switch parties.
Days after Fiame resigned from the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) and became an independent member, the Prime Minister announced the Government was moving to close “loopholes” in legislation designed to stop M.P.s from crossing the floor.
On the radio, the Prime Minister said the honest thing to do was that once an M.P. resigns from a party forcing them to face a by-election, an issue addressed in the amendments made to the Electoral Law.
Earlier this week the Samoa Tautua Party leader, Luagalau Dr. Afualo Salele, criticised amendments requiring a seat be immediately vacated once an M.P. resigns from a party.
“So how is this any different from candidates running for office as independent members and then [pledging] their allegiance to the party of their choice after they have won?,” said Afualo.
“The Government should remove that aspect of the law to ensure fairness if they are going to hold M.P.’s against their will if they want to leave,”
Regarding the further amendments, the P.M. said: “We are looking at amending the law, there will be no more Independent Members; one must declare which party it will serve under to eliminate such issues.”
Once a member of a political party resigns or withdraws from a political party or changes his or her party affiliation during a Parliamentary term they will be forced to face a by-election.