24 Jan 2005

Samoa's opposition leader claims that legalising gift giving is vote buying

1:56 pm on 24 January 2005

Samoa's opposition leader says legalising gift giving by candidates to their constituencies is nothing more than vote buying and bribery ahead of this year's elections.

Le Mamea Ropati says the opposition voiced its concerns but the government ignored them when it amended the Electoral Act last week.

An electoral candidate or an incumbent MP is often obliged to present gifts of food and cash at formal matai gatherings to express thanks for support but up until now, these were subjected to allegations of bribery.

Le Mamea says the gift giving is customary but he has concerns because there's no limit on the amount allowed to be handed out and it should only be offered after elections, not before.

"The government has got all the government resources and we feel that because there is no limit on this amendment that limits how much you can give to any constituency or village or district - in other words, the more money you have, the more chances of you coming back in the general elections."

Le Mamea says he hopes that international pressure will be brought to bear on the government to consider altering the amendments.