Individual voters against removal of Individual seats
Story & Photos by Unumoe Esera
APIA: 8 February 2012: The Individual Voters are against the proposed changes to the Individual Voters Seats to be called Urban Seats so the seats would apply to voters and candidates residing on freehold lands in the urban areas.
The changes are recommended in a previous Commission of Inquiry into the Electoral Act and is currently being reviewed by another Commission that is expected to submit its report to Cabinet by May this year.
“They cannot remove the Individual Voters seats and they can’t dictate where I should vote. I think such a decision is racist and biased,”said Tapumanaia Wulf who resides in Vailoa (Faleata) but originates from Auala in Savai’i.
Tuala Henry Silva from Faleula said he did not want the Individual Voters Seats to be changed to Urban Seats. “What about the Individual Voters residing in Savai’i. Will they no longer be eligible to vote for these seats if this change goes through?” he asked.
Tavete Manuleleua from Vaimoso said “I do not support this and think we should continue voting for the Individual Seats as it has always been.”
Toaono Ng Lam from Moamoa opposed the criteria which stated only those with freehold lands residing in the urban areas could vote. “Not all of us own freehold lands only those who are wealthy and have good jobs have their own land.”
Fa’asavalu Dave Parker from Aleisa also gave his opinion. “It’s an insult to my intelligence. We already have Members of Parliament for these seats. Those of us residing in Aleisa, Tapatapao and Aele are not sure where to vote if it is changed to Urban Seats, probably we will vote for Faleata.”
The Associate Minister of Health – Maualaivao Pat Ah Him and Associate Minister of Communications – Papali’itele Niko Lee Hang currently represent the individual voters in Parliament and they called the meeting today to seek the opinions of “those who voted us in” so they can present their views to the Commission of Inquiry tomorrow.
The Individual Voters seats were created to represent voters of mixed and European ancestry when Samoa became independent in 1962 and the seats have been reduced over time to the current two.
Political commentators say it has been the intention of the Constitution to phase out the seats given intermarriage and the last Parliament passed an amendment that precludes anyone without a matai title to be a candidate.
The current two Individual Voters MPs both have matai titles even though Papali’i Niko Lee Hang did not use his title when he was the Minister of Finance in the last parliament until it was enforced by law.
The Commission of Inquiry is chaired by Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma.