Close to a hundred members of the legal fraternity in Samoa and New Zealand – including Judges and Justices of the Court - are gathering at Taumeasina Island Resort.
They are there for the two-day Joint Samoa Maori Law Societies Conference guided by the theme “Where is our Island? – Navigating the waves of custom and law – Finding ourselves in our Islands.”
The conference was opened yesterday by the Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi (his remarks in full will be published in tomorrow’s Sunday Samoan).
During an interview with the Weekend Observer, President of the Samoa Law Society (S.L.S.) Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale, said the conference seeks to address key issues faced by both the Maori Law Society (M.L.S.) and S.L.S.
“This is the inaugural joint conference of the Maori Law Society and the Samoa Law society,” she said.
“This will be the first time that these law societies have come together to discuss a number of key issues and we have started this conference which we hope will be an annual event.”
According to Savalenoa, one of the issues on the agenda is the clash between customs and the law. “We have started the discussions by looking at the tensions between custom and law,” she said.
“There are a number of similarities and situations where we can learn quite a lot from the Maori law and its application in New Zealand and learn from the way the Maori codes operate.
“As we may be aware there is a Commission of Inquiry into the work of the Lands and Titles Court; so it’s timely that these issues between tensions of customs and law be discussed to generate ideas about how to address these tensions.
“It is the hope of the S.L.S. to make submissions to the Commission of Inquiry at some point but one of the key issues that we will be discussing here is looking at those tensions and how to address it.” Building bonds between the two Law societies will also be one of the goals the conference will strive for.
“The key purpose of this conference is not only to discuss the key tensions,” Savalenoa said.
“(But) also to establish a more formal manner of networking through discussions and professional developments between lawyers of the M.L.S and the S.L.S.”
During his opening remarks, His Highness Tui Atua wished the conference participants all the best.
“As I have said elsewhere, I am not a lawyer, nor am I judge or jurist,” he said. “My main qualification for speaking about law – namely state law – is my experience as a litigant in our Land and Titles Court.
“Connected to this is a lifelong interest in and commitment to the development of Samoa Customary Law and indigenous knowledge, i.e. our aganuu and agaifanua; this is where I wish to focus my address.”