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Parliament appoints Special Inquiry Committee

Parliament has appointed a Special Inquiry Committee to examine the decision made by the Judicial Service Commission (J.S.C.) to suspend the President of the Lands and Titles Court, Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati.

The members of the Committee are: Deputy Speaker Nafo’itoa Talaimanu Keti, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tu’uau, Fa’aulusau Rosa Duffy, Ili Setefano Taafili, Toleafoa Ken Poutoa and Fuimaono Teo Samuelu; Attorney General Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma, the C.E.O. of Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, and the Legislative Clerk Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei.  

The announcement was made by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi when Parliament reconvened Tuesday. 

“There is a sensitive matter that needs to be dealt with in Parliament. It is something new as we didn’t anticipate this would happen during our term. This has to do with the appointment of the President of the Lands and Titles Court who has been suspended by the J.S.C," Tuilaepa said. 

“This Commission has already deliberated on this matter however they could not come to a conclusion unless Parliament issues its verdict on this matter, whether to continue his employment or terminate his services. 

“The Parliament has that authority."

The President of the L.T.C. was suspended on 10 May 2019.

Fepulea’i, who has been on special leave since March 2018, was convicted and fined $7,000 by the Appellate Court two months ago. This is in connection with causing actual bodily harm with intent on Saili Leota, a security guard of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (M.J.C.A.).

The Prime Minister reminded Members of Parliament of the Commission of Inquiry into the Ministry, which was appointed in 2016 as a result of complaints by members of the public into the L.T.C. 

“To date, laws are being amended in efforts to address issues that were outlined by the Commissioner of Inquiry, while this has now completed however Parliament is facing another challenge. 

“This is the first time Parliament will make such a decision pertaining to the employment status of a judge, let alone the President of the Lands and Titles Court that heads the Land and Titles Court, this is indeed a significant matter,” he said.

The Government comprises the executive, judiciary and the legislature which the Prime Minister said were independent of each other with their own mandate and work. 

“Under the Constitution of Samoa each branch of Government is independent. However, the same constitution also caters for a democratic process, and in doing so there are special tasks for Parliament on top positions in Government such as the speaker, the prime minister and judges.” 

Tuilaepa said Parliament comprises representatives from each respective district. He said the appointed committee members are able to conduct hearings and call witnesses to assists with their decision making. 

“This is part of our Parliamentary work to investigate sensitive issue by appointing a special committee, and then Parliament deliberates their findings for a final decision, rather than rushing into a decision involving the high and respectful position,” he added. 

Tuilaepa also noted that Fepulea'i was appointed as President of the L.T.C. when he was working as the Legislative Clerk, a position he held for many years. 

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