27 May 2022, Apia Samoa. Eighteen District Development Committees signed agreements that led to the distribution of an initial $200,000 tala which had been tagged in last years’ budget for each of Samoa’s 51 electoral constituencies.
All 18 districts who received their $200k tala funding tranches today, were electoral constituencies with Faatuatua i Le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party MPs.
Speaking to Samoa Global News, Chief of Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (MWCSD), Dr Mema Motusaga, said this first tranche is for the establishment of offices within constituencies, and for the planning process of how to utilise the annual million tala that is to be allocated to each of Samoa’s 51 districts.
The CEO says committees will have to submit acquittal reports on the spending of these funds by 31 July 2022 and by then, they should also have identified projects for the $1 million tala rollout.
Asked why there were only 18 out of 51 districts present at today’s distribution, Dr Motusaga said these are so far, the only districts who have satisfied the conditions laid out by the Minister.
The CEO said the remaining 23 districts are still able to come in next week to sign their agreements and receive the $200k funding allocation. “However, the conditions laid out by the Minister must be met”, said Dr Motusaga.
Last month, the Minister of MWCSD, Hon Leota Laki Lamositele Sio, sent out letters to elected Members of Parliament of the Human Rights Protection Party who Chair the district committees. In that letter the Minister dictates the composition of District Development Committees, to ensure that there are more FAST members present.
The Minister’s position is that the 15-member committees are to be selected according to an individual’s political party affiliation. The letter stated that there shall be, “6 FAST and 6 HRPP members” on board. For Districts Chaired by HRPP Members of Parliament, the remaining 2 members shall be the Committee Secretary and the Deputy Chair, “who must both be a member of FAST”.
The letter is said to have been delivered only to districts who had elected Human Rights Protection Party MPs.
Districts such as Sagaga 2, headed by elected MP Maulolo Tavita Amosa, had expressed their confusion and concerns with the Minister’s requirements. The District Development Committee for Sagaga 2 had been selected by the Village Councils of the three villages that make up that Constituency – Afega, Tuanai and Malie.
A matai from Tuanai told Samoa Global News that they were allocated 5 members to nominate towards the District Committee. “For our village, we selected one representative from the Women’s Committee, one high chief (matai alii), two talking chiefs (matai fai upu) and our Sui o le Nuu or Village Representative.”
“For most matai in our village, we do not know who they voted for, and we don’t really care because that is their prerogative, and none of our business..” (O le latou lena aia tatau).
The village of Tuanai said they were careful to consider village members with experience in development projects. Tuanai never considered party affiliation in selecting their five members, as their criteria was based on gender balance, and included those who had shown commitment towards village projects in the past.
“We took time to consider and select matais with knowledge and experience in projects such as our fishing reserves, and also those who showed commitment during our school building projects and other developments in the village. “Sa filifili ma le totoa, ona o loo iai ia i latou uma nei le tomai ma le agavaa e saili ai auala ma faatino ai poloketi e manuia ai le nuu.”
Member of Parliament for Sagaga 2 aired his concerns with the Minister’s selection criteria in an earlier interview with SGN. He said the selection of village representatives has to lie with the Village Councils of matai, who should be free to select without outside or political influence.
According to Maulolo, it is now difficult for Sagaga 2 to remove any of the members selected by the three Village Councils, because the District Development Committee has been holding meetings and rolling out programmes for several months now, and were particularly active in the recent response to the community spread of Covid-19.
Maulolo said at the time, that the selection of the District Committee for Sagaga 2, followed the process formally handed out by the Ministry of MWCSD when the Minister was overseas for medical treatment, and Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa was acting as the Minister. The new rules and criteria sent out, based on political affiliation, is not something that can be easily accepted by the Constituency, and Village Councils, said Maulolo.
Asked how the Minister’s directive to base Committees on political party affiliation can be justified given the funds are a national budget allocation, the Chief Executive Officer said that would be a question for the Minister.
The Minister has not been available to respond.
List of 18 Committees and their MPs:
1. Aana Alofi 1 – MP: Fesolai Apulu Tusiupu Tuigamala FAST
2. Aana Alofi 3 – Agaseata Valelio Tanuvasa Peto
3. Alataua i Sisifo – Hon Seuula Ioane
4. Aleipata Itupa i Lalo – Faleomavaega Titimaea Tafua
5. Faasaleleaga 1 – Hon Matamua Seumanu Vasati
6. Faaseleleaga 3 – Hon Papalii Lio Oloipola Taeu Masipau
7. Falealili 1 – Hon Toelupe Poumulinuku Onesemo
8. Falealili 2 – Maiava Fuiono Tito Asafo
9. Faleata 1 – Manuleleua Paletasala Tovale
10. Faleata 2 – Hon Leatinuu Wayne Sooialo
11. Gagaemauga 2 – Seuamuli Fasi Toma
12. Gagaifomauga 3 – Hon Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt
13. Lefaga ma Faleseela – Masinalupe Makesi Masinalupe
14. Palauli 1 – Hon Mulipola Anarosa Ale Molioo
15. Palauli 2 – Hon Leota Laki Lamositele Sio
16. Sagaga 4 – Papalii Tagaloatele Pasi Poloa
17. Salega 1 – Fepuleai Faasavalu Faimata Sua
18. Falealupo – Fuiono Denina Chrichton