Parliament should amend laws first, says Cabinet Minister

The Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, says Cabinet directives relating to the transfer of traffic enforcement powers back to the Police cannot be implemented — until the necessary laws are amended by Parliament.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer during a telephone interview, the Minister said unless the necessary amendments are made to the Ministry of Police Act and the Land Transport Authority Act,  Cabinet recommendations cannot be implemented. 

“That will not happen, unless the law is amended. It has to go through Parliamentary process then we can implement the transition," he said.  “We cannot move on with the Cabinet recommendation without following the law.

“That is the recommendation by the Cabinet. However, it cannot be endorsed unless the Acts are amended. And I am referring to the Ministry of Police Act and the L.T.A. Act."

Last month the Ministry of Police issued a public notice dated April 26, 2019 that the transition of the traffic unit from the L.T.A. to the Ministry of Police will go into effect Monday, April 29.

"Therefore, the Ministry of Police will be undertaking all the duties and responsibilities related to traffic enforcement. We ask for your patience whilst we through this transition," the public notice read.

However, according to the Minister, Attorney General Lemalu Hermann Reztlaff issued a legal opinion to wait for the law to be amended. 

“The Cabinet’s decision for the transition will be implemented no question about that, however we have to do it the right way,” Papali’i said.

Close to 40 L.T.A. traffic officers  people will be affected once the transition takes effect. 

The Minister added that the Government has to look at ways to assist some of the L.T.A. staff who will not be transferred to the Police, as it was not their choice to be transferred. 

“After all it was not their decision to be transferred to the Police; it was a directive from the Government. 

"If some of the L.T.A. officers do not wish to work for the Police, we have to give them a redundancy package and they can look for another job, given this is not their choice, this is a directive by the government,” he said. 

Police Commissioner Fuiavailiili Egon Keil has advised that the L.T.A. traffic officers who are transferred to the Police have to go through the Police Academy before they can work in the Police traffic unit. 

"The people who will be coming in as police officers — you have to by law, you have to go through proper steps — you can’t just bring someone in and make them a policeman. 

"You have to go through the screening process, make sure that you don’t have any criminal history, work ethic is good, that you’re not a drunk, no one who does drugs and I’m not saying that they are but we have to screen everyone who comes in to the Samoa Police now," he said. 

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