CHANGES TO SAMOA ELECTION LAWS BEFORE PARLIAMENT

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (April 26, 2000)--The Samoa Parliament has indicated initial approval of report by the Electoral Act Review Committee that calls for amendments to the country's election laws that have been in place since 1963.

One proposed amendment requires that candidates for Parliament be residents of Samoa for three consecutive years, instead of one year as currently is the case.

This amendment targets Samoans residing overseas, especially those in New Zealand, who return to Samoa only a year before election just to be on the ballot.

"The affairs of Samoa must be legislated, administered, controlled and monitored by those citizens of Samoa living in Samoa for the best interest of the people. Twelve months (1 year) residency does not permit accurate assessment of internal situations in the village, constituency and the country," according to the Committee report.

The report, however, would permit those persons appointed to international posts and their spouses to be exempt from the "residency provision."

Other minor amendments include an increase in the candidate fee from the current WS$ 100 to WS$ 300 (US$ 32.35 to US$ 97.05) making it mandatory for electors and voters to register, and time off for employees to vote.

The Samoa Parliament will continue to debate the recommendations with a full vote expected in two months.

There now appears to be general agreement that these amendments should be passed before the April 2001 general election in Samoa.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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