Right to Vote for Overseas Samoans on the Agenda for Commission of Inquiry

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10 June 2022, Apia Samoa. The Commission of Inquiry appointed to lead a national review of the election process and make recommendations on the country’s Electoral Act following the April 2021 General Elections has confirmed 10 key areas of review, including the question of whether overseas Samoans ought to be given the right to vote.

The Chairman of the high-powered Commission, Tuuu Luafatasaga Ieti Taulealo, said the Commission’s work will be guided by the public’s opinion on the 10 overarching areas they have identified for review.

First up on the Chairman’s list was the right of overseas-based Samoans to vote in general elections.

There are over 200,000 people with Samoan heritage living in USA according to a US 2019 population count, while New Zealand’s latest census records over 182,000 Samoans. For Australia the last count showed over 75,500 people declaring Samoan ethnicity.

According to the Samoa Bureau of Statistics preliminary results of the 2021 census, the population of Samoa is 200,010.

For the April 2021 general election, there were 128,848 registered voters according to OEC records, with a voter turnout of 69%.

Other areas identified by the Commission for review include membership and registration of political parties, women’s seats in parliament, eligibility and qualification of candidates, boundaries of electoral constituencies and electoral rolls.

Tuuu Luafatasaga Ieti Taulealo said the Commission will begin consultations next week with the Vaimauga 1 constituency, and work their way throughout Samoa. He said the main aim of the Commission is to gauge the views and opinions of the public and people of Samoa.

“E aoao manogi finagalo o le atunuu, ma saili poo fea o iai finagalo o le atunuu. O finagalo foi o le atunuu, o le a poupou ma matimati ai galuega a le komisi..”

The Commission of Inquiry into general elections and the election process is made up of 10 members from the Samoa community – none of whom is a former MP or had run as a candidate in the recent general elections. Previous Commissions have been primarily made up of unsuccessful candidates.

Minister for the Office of the Electoral Commissioner (OEC) Hon Lefau Faualo Harry Shuster said at the time of the appointments, that this is the first time the Commission of Inquiry will be made up of high standing apolitical members of the community.

Tuuu Luafatasaga Dr Ieti Taulealo and Peseta Afoa Arasi Tiotio.

“We have selected esteemed and qualified individuals from the community, and not those involved in politics such as former MPs and former candidates as we have seen in past years..”

“Atonu o se uluai taimi lea ua filifilia ai nisi o le atunuu, e le o ni tagata o aafia i faiga faapolokiki, e pei ona iai nisi o tausaga, sa filifilia mai latou sa avea ma faipule o le palemene, faapea nisi sa tauva i faiga palota..”

Letuiman’usina Dr Emma Kruse-Vaai and Feesago George Fepuleai.

“This is a huge task and we are thankful to the members selected for accepting the role,” added the Minister.

The Commission Chair says they hope to launch a website next week: www.coi.oec.gov.ws  which would provide a platform for Samoans to voice their views.

Reverend Elder Tavita Roma and Faamausili Dr Matagialofi Luaiufi

Ten Key Areas to Guide Review:

  1. Voting rights of Samoans living overseas
  2. Electoral Office
  3. Membership of Political Parties
  4. Court Petitions
  5. Registration of Political Parties
  6. Eligibility of Candidates
  7. Electoral Constituencies
  8. Women’s Seats in Parliament
  9. Electoral Roll
  10. Other Matters

#FaaSamoa

  1. Palota o tagata Samoa o loo alala i atunuu i fafo
  2. Faatulagaina o le Ofisa Faipalota
  3. Sui o Vaega Faaupufai
  4. Solitulafono ma Faamasinoga
  5. Resitara o Vaega Faaupufai
  6. Agavaa o Sui Tauva
  7. Itumalo Faaleaganuu
  8. Nofoa o Sui Tamaitai
  9. Lola Palota
  10. Ma Nisi Mataupu

The 10 Members of the Commission of Inquiry:

1) Tuuu Luafatasaga Dr Ieti Taulealo: Former PSC Chairperson, former MNRE CEO, former Director of Samoa Lands and Survey,  former President of PSA (1981), Civil Engineer (University of Canberra), Masters Degree and PhD (University of Sydney).

2) Feesago George Fepuleai: Former PSC Chairperson, former Samoa Airways Chairman, former Diplomat.

3) Faamausili Dr Matagialofi Lua’iufi: Consultant. Former PSC Chairperson, First Samoan appointed to the BSP Board of Directors, Dr in Philosophy, Masters in Science.

4) Letuiman’usina Dr Emma Kruse-Vaai: Former Deputy Chancellor, former CEO SQA, long-serving educator.

5) Erelini Vaiao Eteuati: Faletua Malolo Manumalo, Faletua of Former President of Methdost Church.

6) Peseta Arasi Tiotio: Consultant. Former CEO of Samoa Land Copration, President Women in Business Development Inc, former Board Member Samoa Chamber of Commerce, Board Member Samoa Business Hub.

7) Reverend Elder Tavita Roma: Former Chairperson of Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (EFKS), Faifeau Toeaina Faatonu Malolo Manumalo.

8) Vaaelua Rimoni Vaaelua: Former Senior Judge of Lands and Titles Court, Former Assistant Police Commissioner.

9) Tupuola Oloialii Koki Tuala: Partner of Koki Tuala Chartered Accountants, Businessman, Director PFL, former Board Member Samoa Chamber of Commerce.

10) Leulua’ialii Tasi Malifa: Constitutional Specialist, Senior Lawyer.


Julius Netzler