No one should know who you voted for: Tuitama

A Cabinet Minister and senior member of the Human Rights Protection Party has expressed concerns at reports village councils are penalising individuals for voting for candidates contrary to the council’s wishes.

Caretaker Minister of Women Community and Social Development, Tuitama Dr. Talalelei Tuitama, expressed his concerns when approached by the Samoa Observer to comment on a report of a village council penalising a woman voter. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the International Firefighters Day celebrations on Tuesday, Tuitama said the village council shouldnt be involved in the decision of a voter on who to support.

"The village council had to discuss it so that the whole village can altogether agree to go with whoever they have decided on, and that should be discussed during their village council meetings,” he told the Samoa Observer.

“But they must not take away a person's individual rights to make their own decision. There is an allowance that the constituents should see. 

“If the person, in his own beliefs, thinks that his candidate is capable and it is made from his own choice.

“But not because his vote has been bought because that is the big issue and that's why the village councils are creating big issues, because they have all agreed to support a particular candidate, someone who they believe is capable of upholding the position.”

Emphasising that he believes that it is the right of the voter to exercise their democratic rights on how to support, Tuitama said people also know which candidates are capable of taking on the responsibilities of a parliamentarian and those who fall short.

"Someone who could actually move the constituency forward,” the caretaker Minister reiterated. 

“But if a voter's mindset is different then it's good if it is because of his own beliefs where he thinks this is my candidate and I believe he can do greater things than the candidate that our village has agreed to support then that's good. 

“But not do it because his vote has been bought in bribery ways. They should not interfere with any voter's decision about who to vote for.”

Tuitama added that information on how a voter cast their ballot should also remain a secret and should not be leaked, even by an entity such as the Office of the Electoral Commission.

"That is a hard topic but the fact is no one should've known who you voted for. You are not allowed to know that. 

“Nobody is allowed to know that. If such information were leaked outside by the Office of the Electoral Commission then that's the worst part.

"But the truth is you can just say, ‘yes I voted for him’ but you didn't because that's a private issue. This should be between yourself, your ballot form and God.”

Last month reports emerged of a woman from Matautu, Falelatai who was banished for supporting a particular candidate in the April 9 General Election. 

Lupematasila Nono Lupematasila, who is also a matai of the village, had alleged that the village council of Matautu banished her for voting and supporting Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party candidate for Samatau and Falelatai, Pau Roy Ausage.

But Nanai Faamanu Ivara, who is a high chief from Matautu, Falelatai disputed the claim and revealed that the village had already decided that they will support one of the candidates who serves the village and holds the Lupematasila title. 

The senior matai said despite the orders from the village council, he claims Lupematasila Nono continued to defy this and campaigned for Pau on the village grounds. 

“That is why the village made the decision, it's because she doesn’t live in the village nor does she render any service but continues to defy what the council’s orders,” he said at that time.

“She is not there to see her family but there to do campaigns for her candidate and misleading other people. 

“There are a lot of people that voted for Pau when they cast votes in the village but Nono’s case is different she knew what the village has decided yet she goes against it.” 

It was also put to Nanai his opinion on Lupematasila’s rights to support anyone she likes. In response, he agreed that people have their own rights, but emphasised that decisions are made to keep the village in harmony. 

“We are looking out for what keeps the village together but these people who continue to defy the village council do no good and only cause trouble.” 

A trained medical doctor, Tuitama also also the Minister of Health before a Cabinet reshuffle in 2019 led to him being handed the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development and decided to retire this year after the dissolution of the XVI Parliament.

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