Samoa’s First Woman Minister of Finance Does Not Agree with Constitution’s 10% Minimum Requirement

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14 May 2022, Apia Samoa. Samoa’s first woman Minister of Finance has publicly declared her non-support for the Constitution’s Article 44(1) which sets a minimum number of women seats in Samoa’s Legislative Assembly.

Hon Mulipola Anarosa Ale Molioo on EFKS TV, Wed 11 May 2022.

Speaking on EFKS TV’s weekly televised talkshow, Hon Mulipola Anarosa Ale Molioo said, whereas she is happy for the three women soon to be sworn-in as MPs as directed by the Courts, she did not agree with the way they are entering Parliament, through the 10% measure allowed by the Constitution for women candidates.

“I support having additional women Members of Parliament, and speaking as a woman, I belive it is important for women to have their voice heard in Parliament, but I question the 10%,” said Mulipola as the show’s host responded in total agreement.

The Minister of Finance said it seemed that the 10% was something the United Nations had influenced, and Samoa did not need to be told by outside influences.

“It looks like the UN pushed this 10%,” states the Minister, “but remember, Samoa doesn’t need to take directions from outside… there is depth of wisdom and vision amongst Samoans, even Village Councils, to advise and navigate their own paths..”

Mulipola said that from her perspective as Minister of Finance, there are many women in positions of leadership in Samoa, and this is something she is proud to see. “In Government but also in the private sector… and it makes me very proud to see.”

In this XVIIth Parliamentary session, the Minister says she is particularly proud of Samoa having achieved the milestone of its first woman Prime Minister in Hon Fame Naomi Mata’afa.

“It’s important to me, that our current sitting (of Parliament) has the first woman Prime Minister of Samoa,” said Mulipola.

“That is an important achievement for me as a woman,” said Mulipola.

“But the only thing that I must raise, Tapuala (TV show host).. I didn’t come in through the 10%.. I fought, just as the men fought…”

Mulipola said that is how she felt when she received the news of the Court decision. “I was thankful that there would be more women.. But for me..” said Mulipola.

“It was the way it was done!” said the program host trying to finish the Minister’s sentence.

Mulipola said she fought for her seat, within her village and constituency, not thinking about the 10% and got offended when she heard people say, you’re lucky you have two ways of getting into Parliament.

“I could feel myself getting angry..”

Mulipola put forth the argument raised by many in the debate, that women who take up parliamentary seats this way may not be supported by their Constituencies.

The Minister says there then becomes two MPs from the same constituency and she questioned the support of the Constituency for the woman MPs who enter Parliament under the special measure.

“I la’u la vaai i le tulai mai foi o nisi o tamaitai i le 10 pasene, e le o se tulaga lelei i la’u ia vaai.”

Mulipola said that women were advancing in other areas of society without needing special measures, and questioned why it should be different for women in Parliament.

“Why are men able to come through and not women?”

“Afai e saofaga mai ai alii, aisea o le a le saofaga mai ai tamaitai?

The Minister’s comments come after the Supreme Court of Samoa directed the Speaker of the House to swear-in three women candidates under the Constitutional guarantee that women would always hold at least 10% of Parliamentary seats in Samoa.

The decision comes after months of Court battles endured by women candidates to clear ambiguities in the interpretation of the Constitution’s Article 44. The special measure designed to support women to enter Parliament, proved to have caused much strife for the women candidates who have had to endure court case after court case in recent months.

All three women candidates, soon to take their seats in the Legislative Assembly, have been on the receiving end of online abuse from demeaning comments on social media. The comments, with underlying tones of venom and hate, are directed towards women being undeserving of the seats.

“Faatumu pu”, “Oso mai i le faamalama”, “O ane e fai le ki a le Palemene”.

“You’re jumping through the window.. You’re a hole filler.. Go and make the tea for Parliament..”

L-R: Toomata Norah Leota, Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau and Faagasealii Sapoa Feagiai in Court, Wed 11 May 2022. Photo: Ganasavea Manuia Tafeaga/SGN.

In terms of constituency support as raised by the Minister of Finance, all three women had secured between 35-40% of votes casted in their constituencies.

Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau who held the Alataua West seat in Savaii from 2016-2021, lost to Seuula Ioane who is now Samoa’s Minister of Education. It was a two-candidate race and Aliimalemanu achieved 40.03% of the votes casted in her constituency (464 votes out of 1159).

During the November 2021 by-elections, Faagasealii Sapoa Feagiai lost to former Manu Samoa Coach Faleomavaega Titimaea Tafua in a 2-candidate race for the Aleipata-Itupa-i-Lalo seat. Faagasealii secured 642 votes out of 1,788 or 35.91% of votes casted in her constituency

The Supreme Court also found that Toomata Norah Leota who ran against HRPP’s Deputy Leader Fonotoe Luafesili Pierre Lauofo, was entitled to a seat in the Legislative Assembly under the application of Article 44(1)(E). Toomata Norah Leota had secured 780 votes out of 2200 or 35.45% of all votes casted. She was less than half a percent behind Faagasealii.

The Minister of Finance, who had won the Palauli I seat in a 7-candidate race at the April 9th general election, ran against six men.

The Minister secured 36.4% of all votes casted (712 of 1158) and was 252 votes ahead of the second candidate.

Pacific Island Countries are amongst the nations of the world with the lowest numbers of Women in Parliament.

PNG, Vanuatu, and Federated States of Micronesia are currently last on the list with no women in Parliament. Solomon Islands and Tuvalu have one, Tonga has two and Kiribas has three.

In Samoa’s April 2021 general election, only four women won seats out of the 51 constituencies.

To be eligible to run for Parliament in Samoa, one needs a matai title. Only 11% of all matai titles in Samoa are held by women.

In a 2018 national survey, it was found that 36 villages did not allow women to hold matai titles, and 21 villages did recignise women as matai and allowed the betstowal ceremony where gifts and money are given by new matai, but then did not allow them to sit on Village Councils.

Samoa is the first country in the world to impose a Constitutional measure for women. The “10%” allows for additional seats so that in any given Parliament, a floor or minimum of 10% of total seats, are occupied by women.

The Minister of Finance, Hon Mulipola Anarosa Ale Molioo, said the Government is looking to reviewing Laws, and this is one of the areas to be looked at for review.

Hon Mulipola Anarosa was not available last week when SGN contacted her for further comments. The interview is available on EFKS TV social media pages.