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Samoa Observer Apia Samoa

May 11, 2000


By Tuifa'asisina Peter Rees

Cabinet's decision to set up an Electoral Reform Commission, as announced on Thursday, is to be applauded. It shows that Tuilaepa's government is truly committed to transparency and honesty in government.

We are all aware of the many strange things that can happen with registration of voters at elections and by-elections, especially the latter; of the bribery and treating (largesse) that still goes on during every election, and the removal of the right for any candidate to contest an election result (a candidate must now receive at least 50 percent of the votes of the winning candidate before he/she can appeal).

Other matters requiring attention are the conditions applying to special votes and the need for transparency in informing the public of monetary donations to all political parties. The special voting conditions that apply at present can and at times do lead to a person voting twice.

The need to honestly report, preferably to an Independent Electoral Commission, the moneys received over a certain agreed amount by all political parties would certainly lead to more transparency and honesty in the election process. So we would hope.

Let's hope that these and other matters will be fully investigated and reported on. Some, including the leader of the opposition, Tuiatua Tupuola Tamasese, have been calling for an Independent Electoral Commission to be set up, based on those that exist in New Zealand, Australia and other overseas countries.

Let us hope that the Electoral Reform Commission will be able to consider this although the matter has not been raised, specifically, in the terms of reference. However, it could well be considered under the first term.

"To evaluate and consider terms upon which constituencies decision-making is based on the premise to ensure that voters in the exercise of their rights are consistent with the legal requirements."

The setting up of an Independent Electoral Commission would go a long way to establishing the impartiality in the registering of voters, something that is seen to be flawed at the moment. At the moment the Legislative Council is under the Chief Clerk of the Legislative Council, who also doubles as the Chief Returning Officer. This is a conflict in its own right. The membership of the Commission is from all walks of life and is well balanced and has a depth of experience. Both major political parties are represented through well-respected members.

Our only concern is that perhaps the Commission’s report may not be made known to the public as the report will be presented to Cabinet, as is required under the legislation covering Commissions of Enquiry. However let us hope that Cabinet allows publication of the Commission's findings and recommendations.

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