Parliament Committee reviews Constitutional amendments

A Parliamentary Committee has been appointed to review three proposed Constitutional amendments before Parliament, including the creation of an independent Lands and Titles Court. 

Member of Parliament, Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow, has been appointed to chair the Commission.

They will review the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020; the Lands and Titles Bill 2020; and the Judicature Bill 2020. 

The Committee’s Deputy Chairman is Namualau’ulu Sami Leota and its members include: Sulamanaia Tauili’ili Tuivasa; Faaulusau Duffy Stowers, Leaana Ronnie Posini, Fuimaono Samuelu Te'o and Ili Setefano Taateo. 

According to the members’ pre-sitting report, the Samoa Law Reform Commission (S.L.R.C.) provided a brief synopsis of the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 to the Committee, which said it was the Judiciary’s wish to have more Samoan tradition reflected in its laws. 

Chief Executive Officer of the S.L.R.C., Telei’ai Dr. Lalotoa Mulitalo, said the three main objectives of the bill were to recognise the decisions made in the village Fono; to recognise the decisions made by the Land and Titles Court; and establish the independence of the Land and Titles Court. 

“To factor in the customs and traditions of Samoa the bill provides the independence of the L.T.C.,” she said.

She also explained that a significant aspect of the Bill is the restructure of the Lands and Titles Court as an autonomous and contained separate branch of the judiciary. There will be a Lands and Titles High Court that will have jurisdiction to hear any appeals from the Lands and Titles Court. A further higher Court of Appeal, called the Land and Titles Court of Appeal and Review, will be made the superior court of record. 

Decisions would not be appealed to other courts, should the Bill pass. 

“Overall the Constitution Amendment Bill seeks to emphasise the separation of the Lands and Titles Court from the Original civil and criminal Supreme Court (particularly Part 9 of the Constitution Amendment Bill),” she said.  

“Though both will be regarded as the same level of importance, their jurisdictions are different and both courts will be independent from each other. Furthermore, the Bill seeks to bind the provisions of the Lands and Titles Bill 2020.” 

Regarding the proposed Land and Titles Bill the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Moliei Simi Vaai, informed lawmakers the changes proposed by the Bill were as a result of recommendations put forth by the Parliamentary Special Commission of Inquiry in 2016. 

“The changes reflect the government's ongoing goal of ensuring that Samoa’s [culture and traditions] are reflected in its laws,” she said. 

The Bill would repeal the Lands and Titles Act 1981; the Lands and Titles Court (L.T.C.) would have jurisdiction over all matters relating to Samoan titles; and be independent of other civil and criminal courts of review. 

“Lands and Titles Appeals will no longer be heard by the original Supreme Court but will now be considered within the Lands and Titles realm whereby a new Lands and Titles High Court will be established to consider appeals from the Lands and Titles court and will have all the powers and jurisdiction of the L.T.C.,” she said. 

“The decision of the L.T.C. High Court is subject to further appeal to the L.T.C. of Appeal and Review whereby the grounds for review will be subject to common law grounds of a judicial review. 

“[The bill] establishes a Komisi (independent from the Judicial Services Commission) which consists of the President of the L.T.C., as Chairperson; a Supreme Court Judge as nominated by the Chief Justice; and the Chairperson of the Public Service Commission and a Registrar of the Supreme Court as secretary whose powers are to appoint, promote and transfer the removal of any Samoan L.T.C. Judge.” 

The L.T.C. will be able to determine claims and disputes involving right of way or access on customary land.

The other bill subject for review by the Committee is the Judicature Bill. 

The Bill seeks to update the Judicature Ordinance 1961, removing duplicated provisions already found in the Constitution. By removing repetitive provisions, the new Bill regulates administrative, procedural and civil appeal provisions practices in the Civil and Criminal Courts now regulating administrative, procedural and civil appeal provisions practices in the Civil and Criminal Courts.


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