The Government is seeking to amend the Constitution to add three new members to the Judicial Service Commission (J.S.C.).
Currently J.S.C. comprises the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and a representative of the Ministry of Justice.
This Bill, if approved into law, the new members will be President of the Land and Titles Court, a retired Supreme Court Judge appointed by the Head of State on the advice of Cabinet, and the Registrar of the Supreme Court as the Secretary of the Commission, who shall have no voting rights.
This measure which was tabled for first reading in Parliament, also seeks to amend Article 72(2) and (3) that states no business shall be transacted by the J.S.C. unless any three members appointed are present, and all questions proposed for decision by the Commission shall be decided by a majority of the votes of those members.
“A meeting of the Judicial Service may be called by any member except the Registrar."
“The power of appointing, promoting and transferring any judicial officer, other than the Chief Justice, and of dismissing any judicial officer, other than a Judge of the Supreme Court, is hereby vested in the Head of State, acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission as may be provided by Act,” according to the proposed Bill.
According to the memorandum on this measure, the amendments are to provide for a reform to coincide with the reform of the Land and Titles Court as well as other reforms being prepared by the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration which will be accompanied by Bills to follow this amendment.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi explained the amendment seeks to improve the work of the Courts. This was part of the inquiry ordered by the Parliament to establish a special Parliamentary Committee to investigate the work and performance of L.T.C. Judges in 2016.
He said the proposed amendment of the Constitution is the Cabinet’s response based on the Parliamentary Committee recommendations which were already approved.
“You have received the report of the Parliamentary Committee and this is the Cabinet’s reaction.”
Member of Parliament, Tafua Malueluea Tafua commended the Government for proposing such an important amendment to the Constitution.
“I recall in 2016, this was one of the issues discussed in our seminars."
“And I remember raising the concerns as to how the Lands and Titles seem to lean on individual rights verses communal rights. For example, if one person takes the entire Village Council to Court for not allowing a new denomination in the village."
“It appeared the Court will always take the side of the one person and does not consider the entire village and their views."
“So this amendment of the Constitution, allowing additional three members to decide our cases, is relatively important and a very good move,” said Tafua.
He also pointed out that it has been 55 years since Samoa’s Independence and yet for the first time, there are three additional seats to assist in the operation of the Court.