APIA, SAMOA: The Independent MP, Olo Fiti Vaai has described the Electoral Amendments 2020 passed without changes by parliament last Tuesday as strangling the country’s political system.
The outspoken Opposition MP, pointed to sections of the Electoral Amendments 2020 that “impinge on human rights protected by the Constitution and ones that are humanly discriminatory.”
He also criticized the amendment that now stops an MP from leaving a political party and become an Independent “as strangling the political system.”
The Prime Minister defended closing the party-hopping loophole “to ensure a stable Government as it’s important to the country’s economic development and confidence of overseas (aid) donors,” Tuilaepa told Parliament.
Outside parliament, Olo said that it is one thing to have a stable government and it is quite another to have a system that strangles the party members freedom because of the party leaders quest to hang on to power.
“It is the democratic process that change is refreshing and good for the country. Australia had several Prime Ministers in one year. The question is, is their government stable?”
Olo firmly believes that the amendments are targeted to maintain the Prime Minister and HRPPs’ grip on power with the general elections coming up.
“They are making all these laws to protect the party’s rights and not the rights of the Members of parliament,” said Olo. He then referred to former HRPP high profile members La’auli and Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa who left the party which shows all is not well within the ruling party.
“Samoa needs a change in Government as HRPP has been in power for far too long and the government is only reacting to protect its power at the expense of the people and the country’s welfare,” Olo said.
The amendment came at the heel of the Deputy Prime Minister resigning and moving across to be an Independent MP and now closes that loophole. It now stops any HRPP MP from leaving the party when they register and declare their party allegiance as election candidates in three weeks time.
The amendments were also criticized for giving special treatment to intending election candidates who are under the Covid-19 lockdown overseas, as against intending candidates under lockdown in Samoa.
MP Olo Fiti Vaai also questioned the amendments that allow only matais as election candidates from a traditional village under the new electoral constituency boundaries.
He gave the example of Vaitele where only matais from the Vaitele village are allowed as candidates for election. But the voters residing on freehold properties in the constituency but are not part of the Vaitele village council, can only vote but cannot run as election candidates. This was one of the issues challenged in court two weeks ago.
However, the Minister in charge of the Electoral Act, Fa’aolesā Katopau denied that the amendments were due to a legal challenge of the electoral act in court two weeks ago.
Independent MP Faumuinā Leatinu’u Wayne Fong pointed out that the special sitting of parliament on Tuesday was to pass the amendments as agreed by the parties (in the court case), ahead of the registration next month of candidates for the April 2021 general election.