Medical Doctor and Former MP Calls for Revision of Laws that Restricts Candidates from Filing Election Petitions

A long-serving medical doctor and former Member of Parliament, Papalii Dr Samuelu Petaia, has called for a review of the election laws that restricts a candidate from bringing bribery charges against a winning MP following an election.

Samoa’s current law states that a losing candidate is unable to file a post-election petition against the winning candidate, unless they have achieved at least 50% of the winning MP’s votes.

During a public consultation with the Commission of Inquiry tasked to review Samoa’s election laws and processes, Dr Petaia shared his experience of running in an election, where he says failing to offer voters money resulted in very low numbers for him.

Papalii said he did not achieve 50% of the winning candidate’s votes, and therefore, could not file an election petition.

“Even though I was approached by so many people, I never gave anybody any money because I was running a clean campaign,” Papalii told the Commission. “But the other side were doing it.”

During his short stint with politics, Papalii Dr Petaia had filed a successful petition of bribery and treating against an MP who had beaten him in a 2006 by-election.  MP Letoa Rita Pa’u Chang had her seat declared void by the Courts, and in a 2007 by-election which followed, Papali entered Parliament for the first time. He would later lose his seat in the 2011 general election. He ran unsuccessfully again in the 2016 general elections.

Dr Petaia said he saw and experienced a lot of bribery, and the expectation of voters was well aligned with it. Papalii said because he had refused to participate, he was barely able to secure 100 votes.

Currently Chairman of the National Kidney Foundation, Papalii told the Commission of Inquiry that the laws imposing a minimum percentage of votes be achieved before a bribery petition can be filed by a losing candidate, had to be urgently revised to ensure the process was fair and ethical.

Papalii also expressed a definite, NO, to overseas-based Samoans being given the right to vote in Samoa’s elections, stating that this would allow diaspora who are third and fourth generation Samoans to vote. “They did not grow up here, they do not understand the issues here in Samoa, so how can they come and vote here?”

“E lei ola i Samoa, e le o malamalama foi i mataupu o loo feagai ma Samoa, ae faafefea ona omai palota i inei?”

Papalii asked the Commission to look into the monotaga requirement, to ensure a matai who is serving a church be allowed to register his/her church service as a monotaga.

Dr Petaia also asked for a review of rights for voters living in non-traditional villages (nuu le mavae), requesting that they also be allocated seats to represent their interests in Parliament.