Parliament Committee hearing on election, land and other bills begin

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 08 April 2018, 12:00AM

Members of the public will have their say on proposed measures which target a number of changes to the electoral laws among other issues starting today.

The Public hearings before the Parliamentary Committee are being held at Tuana’imato.

This is according to the public notice posted by the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. 

There are six bills to be discussed during the public consultations to be held at Parliament’s temporary location at Tuanaimato Sports Complex.  

It includes the Electoral constituencies, Alienation of Customary land amendments, and Constitutional amendments to add Judicial Service Commission seats, Electoral Commission Bill, Electoral Bill and Tobacco Control Amendments. 

Two weeks ago, Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, called some Members of Parliament liars. 

She also accused them of being irresponsible pertaining to their comments on the Alienation of Customary Land Amendment Bill, which is tabled in Parliament. 

Fiame did not name anyone in particular. 

But she was responding to claims from certain Members of Parliament that the Alienation of Customary Land Amendment Bill 2017 violates the Constitution. 

“Mr. Speaker, some Members have said we have overstepped the Constitution,” she said. 

 “I am in shock because these comments are brainwashing the public.” 

This is far from the truth, she said.

“Why were we elected by our constituencies? To make hard decisions for the betterment of Samoa and that is the spirit behind this Bill. 

“However, some comments that been uttered are literally brainwashing our Chiefs and our children. They are irresponsible comments.”

According to the explanatory Memorandum Object and reasons this Bill provides for amendments to the Alienation of Customary land Act 1965 (‘’the Act’’) with the objectives of:

• Strengthening the provisions relating to leasing and licensing of customary land; 

• Facilitating the mortgaging of leases over customary land;

• The key amendments to leases and licenses of customary land is to protect the interests of beneficial land owners and to provide then with certain rights that are often enjoyed by commercial lessors under a lease to License Agreement;

• The key amendments in relation to mortgagees of leases over customary land is to facilitate the mortgaging process and put in place a number of legal prohibitions and requirements that will protect the ownership rights of the beneficial land owners whilst also providing for the interests of mortgagors and mortgagees;

• Overall, the amendments aim to strengthen the legal framework to safeguard the Constitutional protection against the alienation of customary land whilst ensuring the authorized manners of alienation (i.e., lease, license and mortgaging of leases over customary land) comply with the Constitution; and

• The outcome is to improve e the people’s standard of living through promoting greater economic use of customary land via leasing, licensing and mortgaging of leases over customary land. All Samoans stand to benefit from then amendments.

Regarding changes to the electoral laws, it includes increasing the number of electoral constituencies from 50 to 51, the removal of urban seats and redefining of voting boundaries based on geographical location.  

This means Leauva’a and Salamumu will no longer vote in Savai’i. They will instead be allocated to different constituencies in Upolu.

In Parliament last week, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Nafoitoa Tala’imanu Keti, has called on Parliament to reconsider the proposal to divide voters for Gagaemauga No. 2.

The Member of Parliament for Gagaemauga No. 3 has asked the Government to consider a standalone seat for Saleaula, as opposed to the current plan where Saleaula will join voters in Gagaemauga No. 1.

 “The Government has meddled with of core traditional authority in Savai’i with its decision to remove of Saleaula from its own electoral constituency,” he said.  

In Samoan, he cautioned: O lea ua omiomi le niu ale le pule fa’avae i le Puleono i Salafai, tulou lo’u gutu male afi - ia Saleauala ma lona tufugaga. 

“That is my concern, although my Constituency is not affected but this will affect Savai’i as a whole.” 

Nafoitoa voiced his concerns in Parliament last week during the discussion of the proposed Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018.  

The Deputy Speaker made it clear he does not support the removal of Saleaula from Gagaemauga No. 2, which they currently belong to. 

Nafoitoa cautioned the changes being introduced will affect the traditional relationship between districts and villages.

 “The mutual respect between the districts is what I am extremely troubled about and that is why I implore you to reconsider the removal of Saleaula.” 

Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, intervened. He reminded his Deputy that the proposal will go to a Parliamentary Committee for a review.

He said members of the public, along with Members of Parliament, are welcome to sit through the hearings and raise their concerns then.

“The Bill does not affect our culture and traditional boundaries because it only targets the voting districts.” 

Former Speaker and Member of Parliament for Gagaifomauga No. 3, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, opposed the Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018.

“We are concerned about the renaming of the electoral constituencies,” said La’auli.  “The essence behind our unease is because we want the integrity of the constituencies to remain intact. 

 “We are Members of Parliament for the respective constituency, which is our calling.” 

La’auli reminded our forefathers, who laid the foundation for Samoa, knew the importance of traditional links.  

“You are a traditional leader in your District. You’re not just a lawmaker from your constituency. Your calling to your constituency does not end after the election. 

“Your purpose is to serve your country and you are a traditional leader endorsed by your traditional leaders in your respective districts.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi rejected the concerns. He pointed out that the changes only give the Member of Parliament a new “work title.”

He said the changes have nothing to do with Samoa’s culture and traditional boundaries, adding these are only voting districts.

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 08 April 2018, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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