A book titled “Law Reform in Plural Societies” was launched at the National University of Samoa yesterday. The book is authored by the Executive Director of the Law Reform Commission, Teleia’i Dr. Lalotoa Seumanutafa.
The launch was well attended by families, friends and colleagues. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegao, who was the keynote speaker, congratulated Teleia’i for a job well done.
“May this book be made useful as it regulates our laws not only in Samoa but also in other Pacific nations,” said Tuilaepa
Former Judge of the International Criminal Court, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, reviewed the book and he highlighted the importance of it.
“The book we are launching today is an important text and a significant contribution to constitution and legal thinking in the country,” he told the gathering.
“It addresses the complex and nature of people and that is the co-existence of different sources and systems of the law."
“In the Samoan context it is about a relationship between custom and usage or customary law on hand and the formal system of law or state law on the other."
“Specifically this is a study of a nature of the interaction between state law and customary law and the consequences of this situation of legal or pluralism or state of policy in particular state policy of the law reform."
“It is common understanding of centrality of custom in our country that we all live by the custom and traditions of our land yet as the legacy of the Samoan’s colonial past and by the terms of the constitution we have chosen and inherited a plural system laws and governance which on critical aspect lack of centrality as the boundary line between customary law and state law and at times allowing competition or even conflict between custom and state law.”
Author Teleiai spoke about the reasons behind the book.
“My father was a teacher the late Mulitalo Ropinisone Seumanutafa together with my mother, and back in my early childhood days in the 1970s one distinct memories of my father as a teacher was that he use to collect booklets and from this started my education at home, learning English,” she said.
“All of us eight children were subjected to reading any book available and provide a summary for our teacher parents."
“Speed forward to today, after ten years at the Office of the Attorney General as earlier stated I was a prosecutor and a government legal advisor for five years and parliamentary council for the other five years."
“My job was to draft laws for the government of Samoa and appear in front of the parliamentary committee to explain a law."
“In my early years I was under the supervision of two Australians Senior draft persons and every time a parliamentary committee called on arrival with my supervisors there are usually not much discussions as of course the discussions would be in the English language."
“Only when I appear on my own that there will be a lot of queries and questions and it made me think like this, 'if my members of parliament have a lot to say only when I a Samoan appear alone why can’t I be like the Australian draft person and be able to draw up, to draft and to explain the law completely in the language that we both understand'."
“If laws are to benefit people why I can’t I write laws in my Samoan language?"
“What do the tax law, international trade law and terrorism law have to do with fishing and planting, which matter more to the majority of people in Samoa."
“How does law making in parliament relate to law making in the village councils, what good are the laws that I was writing in the office if this cannot be understood, irrelevant and unsuitable to the context of Samoa?”
She also recalled when the late Tuiloma Pule Lameko encouraged her.
“The late Tuiloma Pule Lameko found me sitting outside the door waiting for my third parliamentary committee for the day at the parliamentary premises,” she said.
“His committee was my first meeting and mind you these laws I did not write they were written by consultants who had left our shores and I was left to explain and even defend those laws before the committees."
“He said this; 'I thank the Lord for you. There is now a Samoan who can explain the laws to members of Parliament in Samoan language and I hope there will be more like you. This encouraged me further'."
“If this was a way to be useful to Samoa I pray hard to the Lord to let this happen and make me useful this way.”
About the book, she said: “Now this book does not provide all the answers nor complete answers but it is perhaps a start, a start towards acknowledging the supremacy and uniqueness of both the fa’asamoa and western values in law making in Samoa."
“A holistic and a whole society of projects required as everyone in society has a responsibility into law making, the parliament, executive, judiciary, all sectors, all villages and the people of Samoa. It is also my hope that this would be useful to law makings to Samoa.”