First responders and Samoa’s telecommunication providers were low-key champions during the chaotic situation where thousands of people flocked to the EFKS Youth Hall at Mulinuu hall to process last-minute voter registrations for next year’s April 2021 general elections.
The team from Digicel Samoa were seen giving out water to the crowd of people who had been standing in line for hours.
Digicel CEO, Mark Witthuhn was also at Mulinuu and told Samoa Global News that they had brought in 40 cartons of 48 bottles of water.
“Within minutes, we had run out so the team are going to get more”.
Two elderly ladies found refuge under the Vodafone tent, with a chance to sit down as they waited for their nephews in line.
Sierra Toafa had left Lalomanu Aleipata at 5am with 7 members of their village and family who needed to register.
“We’ve come from “LA” she smiles as she refers to her village of Lalomanu. “We vote in the district of Aleipaya Itupa I Luga and I am going to support my cousin Taua Edmond Taufua who is running in the election”, she shared.
First Aid volunteer Apulu Veronika Matau Matautia-Mortenson works at the US Embassy, and said she had to take the day off to gather a Red Cross team together.
“I came this morning to see where the traffic was headed and when I saw this, I knew I had to take the day off work and bring a team here,” said Apulu.
Assistant Commissioner of the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) Tanuvasa Petone Mauga was on site with a response team and confirmed that they had treated close to 30 people throughout the day, with the help of the Ministry of Health’s Ambulance service.
The team at FESA were alerted to the situation when people started to collapse and fall unconscious from within the crowd trying to squeeze through the glass doors of the hall.
The Samoa Police Service also responded with Senior Traffic Officers seen directing the stand-still line up of cars heading in and out of the Mulinuu Peninsula all day long.
When the gates had to be closed off at 4pm in the afternoon, it was the Samoa Police Service that found themselves on the wrong end of the people’s wrath and complaints.
Senior Police Officers at the scene tried to calm down the crowds behind the gate. One officer was seen going back and forth with requests from the people to the Electoral Commissioner, and having to relay the firm message that 4pm was the cut-off time to enter the Mulinuu compound.
When asked why they left it to the last day, some of the people behind the gate tried to explain their situations.
A CSSP worker said she had returned from Savaii on the 2pm ferry to try and make the cut off time. She had been in Savaii all week for work.
A mother and her 22 year old son from Moamoa Fou explained from outside the gate that they were in line, but had left at 3pm to look for their Pulenuu, needed to verify her son’s registration.
Mareta Atonio pleaded with authorities to be let back in, as she had been in line from 7am but was sent to bring the Pulenuu when they got to the front of the line.
The team of the Office of the Electoral Commissioner conrinued late into the night and were still processing registrations at 5am this morning. It was the third consecutive all-nighter for the OEC this week.
The closing date of 8 October had been advertised through public notices and the OEC’s door to door registrations were conducted in every village across Upolu and Savaii.