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  • Sāmoa
  • Unasa L F Va'a (bio)

Political developments in Sāmoa ­during the review period were largely concerned with the general elections of 31 March 2006. Thus in the six months before the general elections, most political activities were related to campaigning, in one form or another, and subsequent events had todo with cabinet appointments and election petitions. These were still continuing in the latter part of 2006.

The year demonstrated the unprecedented extent of political power held by a single political party, the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP). In the 2001–2006 sessions ofParliament, for instance, the party held a two-thirds majority (33 seats out of 49), which enabled it to change the constitution on several occasions. Following the 2006 general elections, it actually increased its hold on power with 35 seats. This means it has the capacity to again change the constitution without a need for a referendum. In short, the Human Rights Protection Party holds a monopoly of power in Samoan politics. This raises important questions as to why and how this came about.

Looking back to the events of the second six months of 2005, it can be argued that many of the major political events of that period were turned into campaign issues. In fact many of these events, such as the doctors' strike and Salelologa land issue, were blamed by the ruling party on the machinations of the opposition in their attempt to woo votes away from the government in the general elections. True or not, the fact remains that these were skillfully turned into political issues, and at the end of the day it seemed that the voters accepted the government version of those events.

It is not that the opposition parties —such as the Samoa Development United Party (SDUP), Samoa Party (SP), Christian Party (CP), and Samoa Progressive Political Party (SPSS)—were organizationally weak or lack­ing in political rhetoric to be able to unseat the government. Despite their best efforts, they were outsmarted by a brilliant strategist and technocrat, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malie­legaoi. More important, the opposition parties were fighting against a government with one of the best records of achievement by any Samoan government of the past, a government that has been in power continuously during the last 22 years of its 27-year history, and one that has given Sāmoa social stability and an economy that has become a model for the Pacific region.

On practically every major political issue that preceded the general elections, the ruling HRPP government and main opposition party, the Samoa Development United Party, took ­radically opposed views. These issues include the strike by members of the [End Page 247] Samoa Medical Association; the report by the international Inter-­Parliamentary Union (IPU); the issue of New Zealand citizenship rights for Samoans; the function of parliamentary undersecretaries; and compensation for customary land purchased by the government at Salelologa, the major interisland port in Savai'i.

On 1 July 2005, the government implemented the first part of a 42 ­percent salary increase over three years for all public servants. The ­doctors who served in the public ­hospitals were not satisfied with the increase for a number of reasons. First, they believed the increase should have been imposed on a salary structure for doctors that had been proposed in 2004 by the Samoan Medical Association (SMA). Second, they also wanted the government to address major complaints raised by the medical association in the past, such as the low salary scale for doctors in Sāmoa compared with overseas, long working hours (which were affecting the doctors' health), and poor working conditions. Most important, they wanted the entry point salary, currently SAT$21,000 per annum, raised to SAT$30,000 (currently, one Samoan tala [SAT$)] = US$.36). As events turned out, the entry point salary became the key issue of the doctors' complaints, one they were not prepared to compromise. As an SMA spokesperson said, the doctors' grievances were non­negotiable and they were tired of meetings that resolved nothing. Not getting a favorable response from the government, on 9 September 2005 thedoctors went on strike (SO, 9 Sept 2005...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 247-256
Launched on MUSE
2007-01-17
Open Access
No
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