Speaker of Parliament, Le’aupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi.
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – 28 APRIL 2010: The Parliament of Samoa has denied an opportunity to table and hear a petition signed by the church leaders on the changes to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2020.
Specifically the petition was against the amendment that omitted religious contributions monotaga as a qualification for an election candidate.
Put together by two Samoan matais, the petition was signed by Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga of the Catholic Church; Reverend Vavatau Tauafo, General Secretary of the Congregational Christian Church; and Reverend Eteuati Tuioti, General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Samoa and overseas.
The Samoan matais are Papali’i Moala and Uava Vevesi Tovio and the petition was signed by 1300 people. According to the petition, the church leaders who signed account for 61% of the population, “a much bigger portion of the population of Samoa undoubtedly supports our prayer against this proposed amendment.”
“The petition pointed out that the amendment will not allow free and fair political participation of any Samoan citizens as election candidates and violates human rights and contradicts the spirit of the country’s Constitution that Samoa is based on Christian principles.”
In Parliament today, former Speaker La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao, questioned why the petition was not tabled in Parliament.
“Why wasn’t the petition brought to parliament as procedure?” he asked.
“Now the voices of the people have been stopped outside the House which is very sad as I can see the people’s voices are treated as not important,” said La’auli.
It later surfaced that the petition was included as part of the Special Committees report to parliament. However, Chairman of the committee, Nafo’itoa Tala’imanu told Parliament that the committee never received the petition and he asked the Speaker to have La’auli’s accusations removed from the records.
Talamua has learned that Cabinet rejected the recommendations of the Committee regarding candidates’ qualifications as pointed out in the petition.
The Prime Minister told parliament that there is a need to separate politics and church issues “not to be mixed like a chopsuey ‘aua le palua fa’a sapasui’.
During the exchange, Speaker Le’aupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi was handed a note by the Clerk of the House that the Speaker then referred to and said the matter (petition) has been dealt with but didn’t give details.
We asked the Clerk of the House, Tiatia Lima Graeme Tualaulelei for clarification on what happened to the petition but has yet to respond.
The same Amendment Bill also took Deputy Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa to the floor and ended with a call from the Prime Minister for her to resign if she is against the bill.
Parliament passed the amendment late in the afternoon and has adjourned for the Budget Session in late May.