Ads by Google Ads by Google

Samoa citizens over 21 at home or abroad must register to vote or be penalized

samoa flag
Source: RNZ Pacific

Apia, SAMOA — All Samoan citizens, including those who reside overseas, can be prosecuted once they enter the country if they do not undergo a compulsory election registration.

This was made clear in Parliament last Friday by the Minister for the Office of the Electoral Commission, Faualo Harry Schuster, who is also Minister of Police and Prisons.

Samoan legislators amended their electoral laws last week — despite push back from the opposition — which gives citizens the right to vote from overseas.

Speaking in response to MPs questions, Faualo said voters who have registered and already on the electoral roll only have to do biometrics to complete the new registration system.

[According to Wikipedia, biometrics are body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics. Biometric authentication is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control.]

According to the amendments, all new voters, including the Samoan diaspora, must register online then travel to Samoa to complete registration by getting biometrics done.

This garnered positive response from opposition members who had been told that the old roll will be purged.

The amendments include opening up the online portal to allow Samoans abroad to register but they have to travel to Samoa to have their biometrics done before their registration is accepted.

Faualo said under the law compulsory registration is for all Samoans who have turned 21 years old, whether they reside in Samoa or not.

"It is easy to penalize those living here but for those overseas, it is only when they come back. The main focus is equal treatment and opportunity for people, it doesn't mean you get away if you live in New Zealand."

He said the only difference in the application of the law is that those living in Samoa will get charged while those living overseas will go through the process when they return.

Deputy opposition leader Lauofo Fonotoe Pierre intervened to remind the Minister that under the Constitution discriminatory laws are not permitted.

Lauofo added such matters can give rise to legal action on electoral matters.

Faualo interjected and noted the advice from the opposition and maintained that although there is a delay in the prosecution, the law treats everyone the same.

He made it clear the Samoa National Provident Fund (SNPF) also has its regulations on who is entitled to pensions, such as those residing in Samoa for three months or more.

Faualo also spoke about members' concerns about hackers accessing information on the new system and said there were enough security systems in place to stop hackers.