Governor gives the cabinet an ear-full over 2020 campaign violations
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — At last Friday’s cabinet meeting, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga voiced concerns over the illegally erected political campaign signs on government land and reminded cabinet directors not to use ASG property and assets for campaign purposes.
POLITICAL CAMPAIGN SIGNAGE
Many political signs have been around since late last year, especially for the gubernatorial race, with some signs on government land. And in past election years, political signs became the norm for the local election.
More than two-weeks ago, Commerce Department director Fuiavailili Keniseli Lafaele planed to call a meeting with representatives from all political campaign camps to discuss the government requirement for obtaining a permit in accordance with local law, which regulates signage. (See Samoa News edition May 15th.)
At the cabinet meeting, Lolo instructed Fuiavailili to remove all campaign signs erected on government property, saying that it’s almost one-month since he gave this instruction to the DOC director but nothing has been done yet.
He said it’s illegal to erect campaign signs on government property, and advised leaders of campaign teams — and mentioned by name the Deputy Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Malemo Tausaga — to bring on board people who have knowledge of the law, so it’s not violated by these signs.
Samoa News notes that Malemo is chairman of the Lemanu and Talauega gubernatorial team.
According to the governor almost all of the gubernatorial teams are guilty of this infraction.
The governor went on to advise those in charge of campaigns to be respectful of each other. He said he has observed that after a camp puts up their signs, others come in and try to squeeze their signs onto the same location.
Lolo also said that other issues have surfaced which violate the law, and that is using government assets, property and time for campaign purpose. For example, campaign teams are taking food to the Department of Public Safety and this was done by the Lemanu and Talauega gubernatorial team.
Samoa News received calls two weeks ago during police week from a supporter of the Lemanu & Talauega team complaining that their campaign team had delivered food and other items to the DPS Central Station in Fagatogo in honor of police week but the gift was rejected by the Police Commissioner.
Lolo told the cabinet meeting that such an action is illegal and described the move as trying to “buy” votes.
He said that it’s not just one campaign team violating these laws. For example, the gubernatorial teams of Lemanu and Talauega as well as Gaoteote and Fai’ivae gave donations to those who were quarantined at government facilities and that’s illegal.
(Samoa News points out that these deliveries were widely publicized by both campaign teams on their social media platforms last month. Even the Health Department posted on its Facebook page about the donations and thanked the campaign teams.)
DIRECTORS INVOLVED IN CAMPAIGN
Lolo reminded cabinet members that their right to be involved in political campaigning cannot be taken away, because that right is clearly stated under the constitution.
He says that many people have spoken to him about the acting Attorney General and other directors involved in campaigns. “But there’s no reason to restrict you from participating in campaigning, but it must be done legally in accordance with the law,” he told cabinet members. “Don’t use government assets or property for campaigning and not during government work hours.”
For those who are assigned government cars, he advised them to walk to the campaign event or use their own private vehicle.
There have been calls from the public for cabinet members involved in campaigning or running for public office to step down now.
But Lolo told the cabinet meeting that there’s no reason why someone should step down, as there are laws regulating candidates for public office.