A large public consultation is underway in Samoa to make changes to its electoral laws and perhaps allow Samoans living abroad a chance to vote from their country of residence.
Currently, Samoan citizens living in other countries have to travel to the island nation and cast votes. The postal ballot system is not in existence for the nation.
Samoa’s Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa had made promises that the electoral laws would undergo reforms to make it easier for eligible voters to cast their votes.
There are ten issues in the Commission of Inquiry’s terms of reference to widely consult with the public and make recommendations in view of amending the current Electoral Act.
Opposing views were heard by the commission. There were fears that Samoans residing abroad outnumbered the population on the island.
Dr. Lafitai Iupati Fuatai who served as Samoa’s Trade Commissioner in New Zealand for six years, said at the time he was in New Zealand, the population of Samoans in Auckland alone was over 100,000 and perhaps 50,000 in other parts of New Zealand.
“With 260,000 Samoans in Australia and over 100,000 in America, compared to Samoa’s population of 200,000 plus, the voting will be dominated by the Samoan diaspora,” said Dr Fuatai.
Former Electoral Commissioner, Papalii Malietau Malietoa calmly explained why Tofaeono’s claim could not be right.
He said there was a huge diaspora population but not all of them were citizens of Samoa and therefore could not be allowed to vote.
According to Talamua Online, he suggested utilising Samoa’s embassy offices overseas as a centre to register Samoan citizens to vote.
He said Samoa’s newest embassy in Suva could do a trial run and include Samoan students studying in Fiji.
The Commission’s Chairperson, Dr. Ieti Taulealo said the challenge faced by the Commission was getting peoples’ views. He said young people were missing from such consultations.
The Commission is holding public consultations around the country and Savai’i, and is expected to hand over its report to Cabinet at the end of November.