Vote on future of L.T.C. President "unconstitutional", says Olo

Member of Parliament Olo Fiti Vaai says Parliament should not decide the fate of suspended Lands and Titles Court President, Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati, and it is wrong to reinstate a judge with a criminal record.

He said it is unconstitutional under Article 68 (5) of the Constitution, as it does not make specific reference to the President of the Lands and Titles Court.

“It is unconstitutional, under Article 68 (5) of the Constitution of Samoa points to the Judge of a Supreme Court, not the President of the Lands and Title’s Court," he said. 

The Salega M.P. took issue with the Parliamentary Special Inquiry Committee report that’s tabled before parliament for deliberation and vote on Tuesday. 

The Parliamentary Special Inquiry Committee — which was appointed to assess the resolution by the Judicial Services Committee (J.S.C.) to suspend the Fepulea'i — has recommended that the Legislative Assembly endorse the continuation of his services.

But the MP said: "And you tell me where in this Article 68(5) it says President of the Lands and Title Court!" 

According to the M.P. there are four respective courts within the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration. 

“We have the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, District Court, the Family Drugs and Alcohol Court and the Lands and Titles Court. And each respective court has its own mandates,” he said. 

The M.P. reiterated the law specifically makes reference to a Judge of the Supreme Court. 

“The involvement of Parliament in this matter is unconstitutional and Salega will not be a part of this nonsense. 

“We vote against the recommendation by the Parliamentary Special Inquiry Committee. It is clear from the Constitution we cannot deliberate on this matter — with all due respect to Fepulea’i, but he’s not a Supreme Court Judge — rather he’s the President of the Lands and Titles Court. Parliament cannot reinstate him to be President,” he added. 

Olo is also concerned that the decision of the Parliamentary Special Inquiry Committee and the actions of Parliament — when it holds a vote on the matter — puts the integrity of the Judiciary at stake. 

“How will members of the public view the reinstatement of a Judge with a criminal background, if it was any position I am certain there is some leniency, but not when it comes to Judges. 

“They pass judgement and if we allow this, it will not paint a good picture, not only in the country but also to our overseas counterparts. 

“And I put it to the Prime Minister and remind him his public comments, no one is above the law and therefore I rescind the recommendation by the Parliamentary Special Inquiry Committee. It is absurd, to say the least.

“I am highly concerned and I vote against the recommendation, to protect the integrity of the Judiciary, the integrity of the Legislative Assembly and to protect the independency of the Judiciary," he said.

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