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Lalotalie River Retreat
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Lalotalie River Retreat
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Lalotalie River Retreat

PM defends women bill

By Charlina Tone 

PM defends women bill Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has rubbished suggestions from the Opposition party that the Government’s plan to ensure women occupy five seats in Parliament is flawed.

The bill, which guarantees that 10 per cent of seats in Parliament are reserved for women, has been the subject of stinging criticisms from Opposition MPs.But Tuilaepa told the Samoa Observer the bill is the best way to ensure gender equality in Parliament.

“I do not see why they (Tautua Samoa) are opposing it,” he said. “This move is to ensure that Samoa keeps up with the modern world in terms of gender equality and fairness.“In fact, the bill will not introduce any new, drastic changes to the Constitution because there are already women in Parliament.

This is a move to ensure and re-affirm their place in Parliament.” Tuilaepa said the bill is not new. It was formulated from an old concept to guarantee women’s rights in Parliament. “The bill states that there should always be at least five women in Parliament, which is ten per cent of the total seats right now.”  

He pointed out the Constitution has always allowed this.After the 2006 General Elections, there were four women in Parliament. “That was the term with the most women in Parliament. Now it has dropped back down to two. This bill ensures that there will always be five or more women.”

The Prime Minister disagrees that the bill will give women an unfair advantage.If passed, “the bill will only take effect if less than five women win seats after the General Elections.”But if after the General Elections and five (or more) women win a seat then the bill will not be used.

“So if women keep winning more than five seats in the next 100 years, then this Bill will never be used.”The process is simple. He explains that after the first count on election night and all 49 seats are won by male candidates the

bill will then take effect.

The next five women with the most votes based on an average of their Electoral Roll will automatically win seats. “So there can be up to 54 seats (five added) based on how many women win after the elections.” This means there is a possibility that some electorates that formerly had only one seat in parliament can have two. 

But Tautua Party Leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II says this process is unfair and undemocratic.“ I want to stress that we wholeheartedly support the move to have more women in Parliament but we strongly oppose the process of implementing this in the new bill,” he said.

Palusalue argues that the Constitution should not be amended to make the change.“Women’s rights are already protected under the Constitution,” he pointed out.Palusalue says the Government needs to address issues pertaining to women’s rights like eligibility to become a matai. 

“Women’s rights are affected in that respect and this prevents them from running for Parliament.” The Prime Minister, the Opposition leader says, has made contradicting views about adding more seats in parliament.

“There are constituencies that have been calling for another seat in Parliament because the electoral rolls are increasing but the Prime Minister said it was unnecessary to have more Parliamentarians because Samoa is such a small country and now he is changing his tune.” 

He suggested an alternative way to encourage more women in parliament.
“There is another way to do this…perhaps political parties can ensure that 20 per cent of their candidates must be women.

That’s a better way to do this.”Party whip, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi agreed saying the bill if it’s passed, will “screw up” the Constitution.
“The Constitution of this country was written under the supervision of the UN giving everyone equal rights,” Leala said.

“Just because women are not entertaining that right doesn’t mean we have to force them into Parliament.”“Preferential treatment” is “undemocratic.” “We believe in the natural transition and progression of things.”

He explained that there are more women in CEO level in Samoa than in New Zealand.“About 70 per cent of ACEO’s are women so eventually we will get there without the need to fast track and take short cuts without considering the ground work that needs to be done.”

 

 

 

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