A former Vice President of the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C), Anae Misa Pita II Anae, has defended the work of Judges of the Land and Titles Court.
Anae, who had served in the role for more than ten years, said while many people were quick to blame the Judges for the delay in delivering their rulings, the delays were not entirely the fault of the Court.
“It is members of the public who bring their issues and petitions before the Court,” said Anae. “But they are also the reason their cases are delayed.While I believe that there are times when the Court is negligent, the biggest problem is the families involved.”
Anae’s opinion was sought following the decision by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, to appoint a Special Parliamentary Committee to investigate the work of the Land and Title Court Judges.
Tuilaepa said the government has received far too many complaints from members of the public about the conduct and the delay in the decisions and it is time for the government to act.
“If the Court does not fix its internal issues, there is a duty of the Parliament to make an order with the two third support from the M.Ps in the House,” he said.
But during an interview with the Samoa Observer, Anae said it seems that the Judges have been blamed for a problem that is complex and complicated. He explained that the backlog of decisions that are pending is the fault of families involved.
“You must remember that as Samoans, we have roots everywhere,” said Anae.
“When a plaintiff lodges a complaint, there are about ten other respondents to the matter. The problem is that most of them live in New Zealand or Australia and when their cases are called, they make applications to adjourn because their leaders living overseas cannot make it to Samoa for the hearing.”
From the Land and Titles Court’s perspective, Anae said everyone deserves a chance to present their cases. And that’s why they try to find a compromise, regardless of how difficult it is.
“The Court doesn’t know what to do when some respondents ask for the matter to be adjourned because the family’s matai living overseas cannot make it.
“All we can do is adjourn the matter. The Judges also find it frustrating when there are so many respondents in a case and the majority of them write from New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
“So the Court always tries its best to call it on a day that works for everyone. But at some point, there is always someone who makes an application to adjourn because not everyone has the same motive.”
Anae also criticised the mentality among Samoans.
“They are the ones bringing in their issues before the Court,” said Anae. “But when we follow up with them in terms documentation and what’s needed, they don’t have it.”
The former Judge pointed out that the government and the general public do not understand a lot of these issues.
Besides, in Samoa, people have more roots than a tree, he said.
“Almost all Samoans have roots all over the country.
“Even each of those families want to have the authority over everything. It’s just not that easy to please everyone as they all want to be high and mighty.”
Anae added that only one person could win a race.
“We can have ten boats racing but only one of them will win,” he said.
“That is the difficult thing about our people. They all want to take first place and have the authority. Whichever side wins – wins but to make a decision that will satisfy everyone is not righteous.”
Lastly, Anae accused Samoan titleholders living overseas of being “trouble makers.”
“When something comes up they are the first to stir things up and complain against those living in Samoa. But when the cases are called they never turn up.
“That is one of the biggest and a common problems the Courts face. And the office gets the blame when the families don’t turn up. But the weight on the problem falls on the families not the Judges.”
Anae concluded that everyone makes mistake. The only righteous Judge is God.