Plenty to ponder for Members of Parliament during Christmas

Well there you have it. Parliament is done and dusted for 2016. 

With Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa wishing Samoa a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, the curtains fell on this year’s proceedings on Tuesday after members convened for the last time at their make shift home at Tuana’imato.

Today all is well that ends well. No doubt Members of Parliament have had a tough year and given it was an election year, they would be looking forward to some much-needed downtime with their families and friends over the next few days until 24 January when Parliament reconvenes. 

But there is a lot of serious thinking to be done while they are enjoying their break. It involves some of the unfinished business tabled before Parliament on Tuesday.

First is a bill to amend the Constitution to define Samoa as a Christian State.

Tabled by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi the Constitutional Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016 aims to insert in the Constitution that Samoa is a Christian nation. 

The goal is to declare the dominance of Christianity in Samoa, as if it’s not pretty obvious with all these church buildings we see everywhere.

Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, explained that the amendment would not affect freedom of religion protected under Article 11 of the Constitution. Instead it is designed to “enshrine Christianity from within the body of the Constitution which effectively provides a legal definition of the State’s religion.” 

Lemalu added that the government is not attempting to control religion among its people but merely attempting to define that Samoa is a Christian country.

And that’s not the only change mooted on Tuesday.

Prime Minsiter Tuilaepa also tabled the Constitutional Amendment Bill (No.1) 2016 seeking to remove the appointment of the Director of Public Prosecutions, returning its powers and functions to the Attorney General. 

Lemalu explained to M.Ps at the pre-sitting briefing the amendment would decrease the cost of operating a separate prosecution arm.  Further, he said the amendment would lessen instances of ‘conflict of interest’ with the Attorney General subsequently overseeing all prosecution cases. He referred to recent events within the N.P.O., which forced Cabinet to act.

Suffice to say both pieces of legislation are very interesting. They will have serious and far reaching ramifications for the future of Samoa is they are not handled well.

But they were not the only ones Members of Parliament will be drooling over.  Another eyebrow-raising proposal was the Police Service Amendment Act 2016.

If passed into law, the bill will allow Cabinet to terminate the services of a Police Commissioner and Assistant Police Commissioner. 

As it stands, the current practice calls for a Commission of Inquiry to be carried out before such a termination can be carried out.

But Tuilaepa who recently made himself the Minsiter of Police said the current process is time consuming and costly. He believes the change will remedy these challenges. 

Lastly, Tuilaepa said the proposed change promotes good governance and accountability. 

“These changes are needed to ensure stability,” he said. “There is no shortage in opinion regarding the (recent) matters but failure tends to occur when it comes to the enforcement of policies.”

Whatever that means, we are certainly looking forward to a very robust session when Parliament convenes next year. Now if only we had an opposition.

Have a great Friday Samoa, God bless!

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