Minister Papali'i is on track in relation to the fate of LTA traffic officers

There are close to 40 Land Transport Authority (LTA) traffic officers who are still unsure of what lies ahead, after the Cabinet decided last month that all traffic enforcement powers currently with the Authority, will be returned to the Police.

The decision immediately triggered the standing down of the officers, though thankfully they continue to be paid their salaries, while they wait for the necessary legislative amendments to be made to ensure there is a clear pathway for them out of the LTA.

Last week that pathway became much more clearer when the Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Papali'i Niko Lee Hang, laid down the process for public information.

He is of the view that amendments will need to be made to the Land Transport Authority Act and the Ministry of Police Act, before there can be a transition between the Police and the Authority.

“It has to go through Parliamentary process then we can implement the transition. 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 LTA Act,” he said in a telephone interview with the Samoa Observer.

The Minister also said that legal advice given by the Attorney General Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, is that the Government will have to wait for the amendments to be made, before the transition can be implemented by the relevant authorities. 

Kudos to Minister Papali'i for being forthright about the process and the need to “do it the right way”.

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

A media release from the Legislative Assembly, which advised of a pre-sitting session for Members on Monday at the Maota Tofilau Eti Alesana (MTEA) Building, stated that four bills will be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday for deliberation in this session. The four bills are the National Provident Fund Amendment Bill 2019, Trustee Companies Amendment Bill 2019, Foundations Amendment Bill 2019, and the Companies Amendment Bill 2019. 

There was no mention of proposed amendments to the Transport Authority Act and the Ministry of Police Act, which the Minister says are necessary for the Cabinet directives to be implemented.

There are also fears that the affected LTA traffic officers could be put off the payroll at the end of this financial year — through no fault of their own — as the Minister rightly expressed last month.

“I know the F.K. (Cabinet directive) was effective on Monday, (28 April, 2019). But we have to be fair to them, we must wait until the amendments are made to the LTA Act 2007. 

"We don’t want to transfer them without due process, in case this fires back. We have to know whether the officers should be transferred over to police with the budget to pay salaries, which is what I am hoping for,” he said.

With the Government moving towards handing down its 2019 budget and the air of uncertainty surrounding their jobs and their future, the affected LTA traffic officers would be wishing that the dilemma they are currently facing is quickly resolved.

The affected officers refused to be interviewed by this newspaper — which is totally understable in these uncertain times — though five of them agreed to talk but only if they were not identified.

"We don't really know how to feel about the transition, because none of us saw this coming and so we are all just waiting to see where they’re going to assign us. But as long as we are able to provide for our families, we are good," said one of the officers.

The officer’s reference to his family is tragic, confirming our fears that they could end becoming victims of Government policies, which were not carefully thought out before being implemented.

The traffic officer’s admission of his worries of the impact on his family would justify the position that Minister Papali'i is taking in regards to this whole saga.

This newspaper has maintained all along since this saga began, the need for some form of compensation for the affected LTA traffic officers. 

Minister Papali'i echoed similar sentiments recently.

"If some of the LTA 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. 

We believe the Minister is on track and has the best interest of the affected LTA traffic officers at heart.

Have a lovely Tuesday Samoa and God bless. 

Bg pattern light

UPGRADE TO PREMIUM

Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?