Constitutional amendments worries Law Society

The Samoa Law Society will run public consultations on three bills currently pending before Parliament that proposes major changes to the constitution and the judiciary.

The Society’s President, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, told Samoa Observer in an interview that they are concerned about the bills and want to do public consultation to discuss the proposed legislations as well as educate the public on the potential ramifications if they are passed by the Parliament.

The three bills in question are the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Bill 2020, and the Judicature Bill 2020. 

The awareness program will kick off with the mainstream media, according to Leiataualesa, who said they will go on radio, television as well as talk to Samoa Observer to discuss the pros and the cons of the proposed bills as well as their impact.

A media release issued by the Society pointed to the bill to amend the constitution, which it said is a concern as it is the supreme law in the land.

“The constitution as many Samoans would be familiar is the supreme law of Samoa. It is the supreme law in Samoa, in that it is the highest law of the land. Basically, that means if Parliament passes a law that breaches constitution, the constitution triumphs over all laws and the Court has to uphold the constitution,” states the media release.

The Society then made reference to a proceeding filed by lawyer Toleafoa Solomona Toailoa, against the Government’s decision to change motor vehicle use in Samoa to left-hand drive.

It said the lawyer at that time argued that the changeover was a breach of the constitution and wanted to maintain the status quo, which the Society emphasised is an example of keeping the executive government’s powers in check.

“This is what those lawyers were trying to do at the time. Declare the changeover as a breach of the constitution and if that were successful the law could not stand,” the Society statement argued.

“The constitution is a set of rules regulating the powers of the government, outlining human rights to be protected, separating key branches of the Government is which executive, the legislative and the judiciary.”

Highlighting the democratic principle of separation of powers, the Society maintained that the three branches of Government are separate as they act as checks and balances of each other, hence the need for each one of them to be independent.

The proposal to remove the Supreme Court from its supervisory role of the Lands and Titles Court and limiting its jurisdiction, as part of the changes proposed in the Land and Titles Bill 2020, also come under scrutiny of the Society. 

The Society warned that the bill was “not an insignificant change”, and if passed by the Parliament could see aggrieved parties lose their rights to apply to the Supreme Court, to enforce their constitutional rights.

“Subject to judicial review matters arising from the proceedings in Part IX Lands and Titles Court, any person may apply to the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings to enforce the rights conferred under the provision of this part.” 

“So this basically this means that where a decision of the Lands and Titles Court breaches a fundamental right under the Constitution, the aggregated party will no longer have the right to apply to the Supreme Court for enforcement and recognition of their constitutional rights.”

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