24 Jan 2005

Samoa's opposition leader damns legalising gift giving as vote buying

5:13 pm on 24 January 2005

Concerns are being raised in Samoa over amendments to the Electoral Act which legalises gift giving by candidates to their constituencies.

The opposition leader, Le Mamea Ropati, says although gift giving is customary, the government move to legalise it is vote buying ahead of the elections in three months time.

He says the government has more resources to be able to make donations so it's providing it with an avenue to return to power.

Le Mamea says the giving should only occur after the elections, not before, and he has concerns that no limits have been set on the level of gifts which can be handed over.

"There was also debated by a committee in parliament that it should limit the amount of gifting to about 20,000 tala. But, with this amendment there is no limit so it could be half a million, one million tala depending on how much money you can afford to give to your district."

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

He says the opposition doesn't have the finances to be able to take the matter to the courts.