The Sa Tunumafono Chiefs, Anapu Aiali’i Solofa, Afemata Tunumafono Apelu Aiavao and Tuia Pu’a Letoa during the press conference this morning
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA: THURSDAY 02 APRIL 2015: The current division of Safata district will have a negative impact on both the upcoming election and the district traditional status.
This was a strong statement from the Chiefs of the Sa Tunumafono side at Safata in a press conference today.
“We are HRPP supporters and we expect HRPP to support and protect our rights,” said former Lands and Titles Judge Anapu Aiali’i Solofa.
Anapu said they were hoping the Government would delay their decision until after next year’s general election.
He said they do not interfere with Government decisions, however, the violation of people’s right to vote on their traditional status have been breached.
Chiefs Anapu Aiali’i Solofa (Sa’anapu) Afemata Tunumafono Apelu Aiavao (Sataoa) and Tuia Pu’a Letoa (Vaie’e) called a press conference this morning to reaffirm their quest to correct Safata’s division based on its traditional boundaries of Siulepa ma ona tua and Togamau ma ona tua, rather than the Alataua and Sa Tunumafono.
The Prime Minister insisted the division is only for electoral purposes but will not affect the cultural and traditional standing and functions of the district.
“We do not accept the Prime Minister’s view that the division is only for the election purposes,” said Tuia – a former Member of Parliament of the Human Rights Protection Party.
The Prime Minister insists the creation of individual seats for constituencies previously held two seats, institutes the one man one vote in these constituencies and resolves block voting as had in the past.
Sensitive political mix
But the current political composition always poses Safata to be in a difficult position. One seat is held by the Leader of the Oposition, Palusalue Faapo 11 and the second is held by the Minister of Works, Manualesagalala Enokati Posala.
The Prime Minister argues that Sa Tunumafono never made their views known to the Commission of Inquiry and their public consultations upon which the bill was drafted.
A large delegation of Sa Tunumafono petitioned Parliament when the Bill was being debated and finally passed in two weeks ago.
But there was no way the Government was going to give in especially when the Opposition Leader insisted in the media that the Prime Minister and Cabinet had no right to divide the constituency the way it is done now. “That is the prerogative and right of the constituency,” Palusalue insisted. He also blamed the Minister of Works for supporting the division “as he is trying to get voters from the other side to support him.”
Both the Minister and the Opposition Leader will now be head to head in next year’s general elections. And given the dissatisfaction raised by the chiefs this morning, it would be one of the most interesting general election results to look out for.
Personal agenda against Safata
Of all the six constituencies divided under the new electoral amendment, only Safata is posing much difficulty. And they blame personal agendas that go right into Cabinet.
“It saddens us if there was such an agenda behind our case,” said Tuia.
He also thought they have been done by the hand of one of their own who sat as a member of the Electoral Commission of Inquiry that consulted publicly on the electoral amendments now made.
The Chiefs know they cannot do anything about the Electoral Bill already passed, but they want the young generations of Safata to grow up knowing that the current division is not based on traditional boundaries.
The Alataua side is supporting the division and petitioned the Government separately indicating their support.
“They were invited twice to meet with us before the petition, but they did not come,” confirmed Afemata.
The Chiefs told the media that the only refuge they have at the moment is the Lands and Titles Court.
“We want the Court to look at our issue and inform Government of Safata’s tu ma aga,” said Tuia.
The Chiefs also took time to acknowledge the efforts by one of their Members of Parliament Palusalue Faapo 11 on the issue in Parliament.
“But he can only do so much because HRPP has the numbers,” said Tuia.