Former M.P. decries demolition of Parliamentary democracy
A former Member of Parliament, Leanapapa Laki Anderson, says Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his administration have turned Parliament into a mere “rubber stamp” for the Executive.
As a result, Leanapapa said the concept of separation of powers has been completely destroyed and it is why he does not find the proposal by the Government to split the Judiciary surprising.
Leanapapa, a former Member of Parliament for Fa’aseleleaga in Savai’i, told the Samoa Observer during an interview that he is extremely disappointed with what has happened.
He supports the objection by the legal fraternity calling for the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020 to be rejected.
“The bills will weaken the authority given to the Judiciary now that there will be two heads for the Justice system,” Leanapapa said. “This is dangerous and unconstitutional."
Leanapapa said one of the most dangerous trends he has observed in Parliament is the lack of opportunities given to Members of Parliament to debate bills and laws during proceedings.
“It seems to me that the mandates of the Legislative are now being implemented by the Executive,” he said.
During his time in Parliament, he said everything including the basic rates for electricity, water and even the spending of the Samoa National Provident Fund were debated and endorsed by Parliament.
“We used to debate in Parliamentary sessions and scrutinise reports and bills,” he said. “This was conducted publicly and on live radio. Nowadays, the process has changed.
“Only certain Committee members can view reports and ask questions while other members of Parliament can only read reports but cannot ask questions.
“Now for the proposed bills, the Members of Parliament can only ask after the bill has returned from the Committee with their recommendations.
“The only voice dominating Parliament during the sessions is the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi and the Minister who owns the bill.”
This, Leanapapa said, is a huge part of the problem and he draws parallel to what is happening today.
“There is minimal opportunity given to the lawmakers to voice their concerns and opinions,” he said.
“Sometimes, the Prime Minister just shuts them off, if they are against the proposed bill. We all hear this on their live feed.”
Leanapapa said the Government is not walking the talk on good governance.
“There is no transparency and the public are no longer hearing the views of their respective lawmakers in Parliament,” he said, claiming that the Executive is too powerful.
“And it does not help that we are being governed by a one-party state, what the Executive proposes, the Legislative just approves. It is a Legislative of yes and no’s from the M.P.’s.”
Looking at the L.T.C. bills, Leanapapa cautions the Government.
“This is parallel to what the Executive has been doing to the Legislative and it starts with the proposed bills. The core of the amendments is about cutting the judiciary in half,” he said.
The former M.P. acknowledged the claims by the Prime Minister about the problems at the Land and Titles Court, especially the delays and backlog in cases.
“But the problem is administrative,” Leananapapa said. “The issue at hand does not warrant changing our Constitution and chopping the Judiciary in half.
“We all know about the backlog of cases, but this is not the answer to the problem. The solution is to hire more judges and Court clerks to assure the operation is efficient.”
He also spoke about the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry that was conducted by a Special Committee made up of Members of Parliament back in 2016.
“As a result, a bill was introduced in 2018 which recommended more judges and gives a timeframe for the decisions of the L.T.C. to be announced, but that bill was withdrawn in 2019,” he said.
“Not long after that, three new bills were rushed before Parliament, to amend our Constitution.
“There is nothing in the recommendations from that Commission of Inquiry that supports the current move to amend the Constitution.
“This means the Government has completely neglected what the Commission of Inquiry recommended and they have come up with their own amendments.”
Leanapapa said this is typical of the Government’s behaviour, wasting time and money on Inquiries and Commissions that they have no intention of following through.