SAMOA’S MATAI-ONLY PARLIAMENT RAISES CONCERN

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SAMOA’S MATAI-ONLY PARLIAMENT RAISES CONCERN Only those with chiefly title can run for office

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, August 25, 2009) - Samoa’s Prime Minister says criticism of the country’s electoral system in which only people with chiefly titles can be elected to parliament are undemocratic, are rubbish.

The leader of the opposition Tautua Samoa Party, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, says proposed changes to the electoral act will mean two seats reserved for mixed-race voters will be abolished.

It means only people with chiefly or orator titles, known as matai, will be permitted to sit in parliament.

He says this is undemocratic, and is calling on Australia and New Zealand to pressure Samoa to change the system.

But the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, says any Samoan can become a matai very easily, if they want to.

"If you want to run in the individual voters roll, all you need to do is to get a matai, which is very easy, like buying a loaf of bread on a Sunday morning," he said. "You just go and get your family to confer to you a matai title and bingo you have a matai title."

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