APIA, SAMOA – 16 JULY 2020: The Samoan Government is considering blocking Facebook in the lead up to the April 2021 general elections.
In his first full media conference since the Covid-19 lockdown last March, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said the issue has been raised by members of the public several times and his Government is looking at it. He also mentioned the Fiji governments’ recent decision to block facebook.
Tuilaepa has been the target of damaging social media posts. In October 2019, a Samoan living in Australia known as King Faiopo was sentenced to 7 weeks in prison and ordered to remove the offensive comments he made against the Prime Minister on social media. The judge in her ruling said “these keyboard warriors full time job was to defame peoples character.”
Tuilaepa commended technology, but said if it is an avenue for destruction, “then that is something Government would not tolerate.”
Since the lockdown in March and recent political developments, Tuilaepa had been doing daily live interviews six days a week that had been streamed live on facebook where he had gathered support online.
Tuilaepa re-elected HRPP leader – not yet time to step aside.
On local politics, Tuilaepa said he and Deputy Prime Minister, Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa have been re-elected to lead the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) into next year’s general elections in April.
Fiamē however was not present at the meeting but Tuilaepa said he asked caucus to let her ‘continue our tag team.’
He said party leadership election was a gamble on his part, as he could have lost the prime minister’s job if caucus decided differently. Caucus will again vote on the leadership after the general elections.
Asked if it was time to step aside as he had been Prime Minister for sixteen years, Tuilaepa drew the biblical card and quoted the story of Jonah in the Bible saying he cannot deny the calling if he has been elected to serve.
HRPP confident with candidates registered so far
HRPP has made an early start and opened the registration of candidates on Monday this week. He said 49 new candidates have been registered and are expecting more and the party will be shifting to Savaii to register more new candidates. Tuilaepa said the party looks at having over 100 candidates running in the April general elections.
The Electoral Commissioner however said candidates will officially be registered in October and once they have committed to a political party when registered as a candidate, they must remain with that party or face a by-election.