Uava Vevesi Tovio and Papali’i Moala who prepared the petition that was signed by the leaders of the three main denominations in Samoa but was not tabled in Parliament.
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – 04 MAY 2020: The election amendment bill passed by parliament last Tuesday now removes church contributions – as one of an election candidates’ qualifications. However, a Samoan matai who prepared the petition signed by the leaders of the three major churches in Samoa against the amendment said this is inconsistent with the voters’ qualifications.
The petition was prepared by two Samoan matais, Papali’i Tavita Moala and Uava Vevesi Tovi’o who argued that the amendment “will not allow free and fair political participation of any Samoan citizen to qualify as a candidate in the general election.” It also “contradicts the essence and true spirit” of the country’s constitution that is based on Christian principles.
Papali’i also challenged the Prime Ministers argument that the amendment separates the church and politics.
“I would be satisfied if the church ministers do not vote,” said Papali’i. “But as it is, how come Samoan culture and the church are two pillars of our way of life and recognized in the constitution and when it comes to politics then the two are separated?” asked Papali’i.
“What about the voters’ qualifications?”
Signed by Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga of the Catholic Church, General Secretary of the Congregational Christian Church – Reverend Vavatau Taufao and General Secretary of the Methodist Church – Reverend Eteuati Tuioti, the petition was supposed to be tabled by the former Speaker Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao last Tuesday.
Originally, the petition was supposed to be tabled in the 28 March parliament session but was deferred as the priority was given to the Covid-19 Supplementary budget and other bills.
Last Monday night, the petitioners received a letter from the Clerk of the House that said given the effort put into the petition, it has been incorporated in the Parliamentary Select Committee’s report that was tabled last Tuesday.
However, when La’auli questioned why the petition was not tabled as with the parliamentary procedure, the Chairman of the Select Committee denied ever receiving the petition. The Speaker was also not clear on what happened to the petition.
But it seemed the petition was stopped by the government from being tabled.
The following day, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailelele Malielegaoi told Radio 2AP that La’auli forgot to table the petition.
In a press conference last Friday afternoon, La’auli queried the PM’s statement that he forgot. “I’ve been Speaker for ten years, and the church is very close to my heart. So how can I ever forget the petition?” he asked.
La’auli, who had been at odds with the Prime Minister over several issues including voting against a government electoral amendment, was asked if he was forming a new political party with Papali’i and Uava.
“I have said it before, it is not hard to form a political party,” said La’auli. “But if the country wants to form a new political party to replace HRPP, change it, as the power is in the voters hands,” he stated.
The petitioners are considering their options whether to challenge the latest amendment in court.