Samoa Youth Conference Recommends Lowering Voting Age From 21 To 18

Inconsistencies in laws, regulations addressed at panel discussion

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, May 24, 2017) – Reducing the voting age from 21 years old to 18 is amongst the issues that the youth want implemented for the next general election in 2021.

This was the view presented by youth representative in a panel discussion at the four day long “Democracy and Development in Samoa: the Role of Elections” that ended today.

Afoa Fetulia’i Va’asiliega was responding to the question why there has been a low turnout of young people who registered and voted in the last general elections as confirmed by the Electoral office.

Afoa also raised some inconsistencies in the country’s laws and he suggested that it was time to consider lowering the voting age to comply with several conventions and the rights of child.

A lawyer with the Audit office, he cited several Acts such as the Land and Transport Authority (LTA) Act where the eligibility age for a youth to get a license for a private vehicle is 17, whereas, the age for obtaining a license to operate a public transport is 21.

The Marriage Ordinance Act 1961 allows a girl to marry at the age of 16 and the boy at the age of 18.

Afoa said it does not make sense, as some young couples who already have 3 children but cannot vote because they have not reached the voting age of 21.

Amusingly, he inferred that these young people are well beyond what adults can do but still cannot vote because of the law.

Member of Parliament for Faleata east Salausa Ah Ching, believes the marriage age for girls at 16 is “with regards to those who have been sexually abused.”

He also said reducing the voting age will defeat the whole purpose of youth voting independently without the influence of parents.

The Young Offenders Act recognizes a youth when he/she reach the age of 17.

“These laws are contradicting the youth age,” said Afoa

He also cited the Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC) which views an adult at the age of 18, and “I guess that is the mature age.”

Afoa believes that it was time for Government to consider if this was not the right time to drop the voting age to 18.

He said youth could be the winning card for candidates, and he is surprised that members of parliament or candidates are not pressing the issue.

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