Samoa Parliament debates women's quota Bill

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13 March 2012
Samoa Parliament
Samoa Parliament

Member of Parliament for Fa’asaleleaga No 2, Papali’i Lio Masipa’u, has described the Government’s push to have 10 per cent of seats in Parliament occupied by women as an “unstable change.” The first term MP made the statement in Parliament yesterday, when the controversial bill was debated in the House.

Papali’i agrees that more women should be in Parliament. But he warns that the change is detrimental in the sense that in one Parliament sitting there are 49 members and in the next, 54. “The change is inconsistent,” he said. “It doesn’t provide the stability and that’s why I say it is an unstable change.”

The MP is also worried that the Legislative Assembly would discriminate against women who will be branded as “additional members.” “It’ll be bearable for men if they are called additional MPs,” he said, “but I feel for our women when they are labeled as additional Members of Parliament”. Papali’i is also against the idea of drawing the winner for a constituency when the top two candidates’ names are drawn out. He compared the method of drawing the winner to a raffle.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi objected. He pointed out that the leader of Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II, among others, are additional members since their constituencies originally had one MP. “But we don’t call them additional members because of that,” said Tuilaepa.

Cabinet Minister, Le Mamea Ropati assisted the Prime Minister. He told Parliament that he recalled a former MP for Fa’asaleleaga who won his seat through a draw. The Minister did not provide a name. “So this is nothing new,” said Le Mamea.

MP Fa’asaleleaga No.1, Gatoloaifa’ana Amataga Gidlow applauded the change. She said it was most wonderful that Parliament will soon recognise the valuable role played by women by allowing more of them to sit in Parliament. Gatoloa’ifaana suggested that the number of women in Parliament should be increased to make up 50 per cent of MPs.

Another woman MP and Minister of Justice, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, also supported the bill. She was, however, highly critical of views, which suggest that the bill is driven by the United Nations. “We are the United Nations,” she said. “Let me remind that Samoa is part of the United Nations and therefore we are the UN.” 

Fiame told Parliament that Samoa became a member of the UN when we hoisted our flag of Independence in 1962. She reminded that as a member of the UN, Samoa has responsibilities to fulfill. The commitment to gender equality is one of them.

Another veteran MP and former Speaker of the House, Toleafoa Le’aupepe Fa’afisi, said he initially objected to the bill when it was introduced. But he changed his mind after he reflected on how far Samoa has come as a country since Universal Suffrage was introduced. Besides, he said; “With men, after work they go straight to play golf and then to the bar. As for women, they have families to look after and they are more focused. So I fully support the Government’s plan to have more of them in Parliament. “As a matter of fact, some women might be better than us.” 

[By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia  - Samoa Observer] 

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