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M.P. calls on Attorney General to address "legal loophole"

A Member of Parliament has expressed concerns about what he has described as a "legal loophole" that could enable the continued removal of Court files from the premises of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (M.J.C.A.).

The Salega M.P., Olo Fiti Vaai, has appealed to the Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, to address the issue, using Section 47 of the Land and Titles Act.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Olo said the protection of Court files is paramount.

He said the law had provisions for the matter to be referred to the Supreme Court Judicature orders.

“According to the Act, whenever there is an issue that isn’t covered under this Act, the next move is to refer to the Supreme Court Judicature orders — whereas the Registrar shall be responsible to the Minister of Justice for the administration and control of the Court offices — and he shall keep or cause to be kept such records of the proceedings of the Court and matters pertaining thereto as the Minister of Justice may direct," Olo explained.

The Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u, has strongly defended the removal of Court files from the Land and Titles Court and taken to his office.

“Under the law, the Registrar and the President of the Land and Titles have the authority over Court files. The law does not prohibit nor does it say it is allowed, this means this specific part is specifically silent on whether it is allowed or not.”

Later, an investigation by the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) into the removal of the files – and other matters at the Ministry – was launched. It led to the termination of the contract for C.E.O. Papali’i John Taimalelagi. 

Olo said the law is blank when it comes to the “safety and security” of Court files.  

“It’s puzzling as to why the amendments have not been submitted before Parliament, but this should be a priority the Attorney General," he said.

“We have to protect the integrity of the Court files. These are Samoa’s treasures, where our lands and chiefly titles are debated and it’s scary to know that it can be removed from vicinity of the Court.

“However what is scarier is the Prime Minister not taking action on this important matter and it is setting a bad precedence.”

Olo said Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, should do what is right and conduct an Inquiry into the removal of Court files. 

“It is the right things to do. The law is vague on this matter and while it refers to the Supreme Court Judicature orders, it still doesn’t say the Court files can be removed. 

“The government has to inquire which files have been removed and why,” said Olo. 

He reminded the Prime Minister that members of the public are not stupid they can read what is happening from a mile away. 

 “This is very concerning and I’m sorry to sound like a broken record calling out the Prime Minister. But I know they are making a mistake and it is my responsibility (as a Member of Parliament to raise these matters for the sake of) the public.” 

He said what has happened is abuse of power. 

"Whether the Minister says that it is for official business only, we don’t know that,” said Olo. 

The Salega M.P. says the Prime Minister has to lead by example and do what is right. 

Attempts to get a comment from the Minister of Justice have been unsuccessful. It was also not possible to get a comment from Attorney General Lemalu.

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