P.M. scoffs at Samoa Law Society objection

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has scoffed at the Samoa Law Society’s objection to three bills before Parliament, which they claim threatens to demolish the Judiciary and rule of law in Samoa.

Speaking during his Radio 2AP programme on Thursday, Tuilaepa said the Society’s response to the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020 gives the impression it is suffering from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It appears they (Law Society) have the COVID-19,” he said. “It’s evident from what is happening, there is no unity amongst their Society.”

According to the Prime Minister, when Parliament ordered a Commission of Inquiry back in 2016 to investigate the work of the Lands and Titles Court (L.T.C.), the Samoa Law Society supported what was proposed then.

“The President [at the time] has a Samoan heart,” he said. “They gave testimonies and made submissions before the Commission and they were in support of the changes at the time. And yet looking at what the lawyers are submitting right now is the total opposite.

“They can’t say yes in the beginning and now with the new and young lawyers say the opposite of what the older lawyers said earlier,” the Prime Minister said.

 “What is happening now? I don’t know about the Law Society whether they are alright or what. Maybe they need medical assistance?”

Tuilaepa offered that the Government could take the Society “overseas” for treatment.

It was not possible to get a comment from the President of the Law Society, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, late Thursday.

But the Samoa Observer understands that the Society has completed a position paper where they strongly oppose the three bills. They are asking for the bills to be rejected and removed from the Parliament’s order paper.

Last week, the Society also objected to the proposed changes to the Constitution.

 “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,” a statement from the Society said.

“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.

Former Attorney General, Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, was the co-chair of a Committee including a number of senior lawyers who reviewed the proposed measures.

She said the bills are “repugnant to the democratic balance of our Government by destroying the Judicial system” and they “undermine the Rule of Law as a means of protecting the people from arbitrary Government power.”

She condemned what she described as an “attack” on the independence and stature of the Supreme Court which is Constitutionally empowered to protect Samoan citizens.

“(These bills) are fundamentally defective and badly drafted…” she said. “Startlingly (the bills are) racist..”

Another member of the Society’s Bills Review Committee is former Director of the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O.), Mauga Precious Chang, who warned that the bills if passed will weaken the Judicial system and destroy the concept of the separation of powers in Samoa. 

She said the proposed changes to create a “two headed” justice system will have a lasting impact on all Samoans and future generations.

But Tuilaepa insisted that the Society does not understand the spirit of the bills. He maintained that the proposed amendments are to protect and preserve Samoan culture and traditions.

 “They don’t understand what the country is doing and that is to preserve our culture and traditions,” he said.

“I must say that the law they are fighting for are (palagi) modern laws but we also need to consider our culture and traditions.

“That is why they need to think like Samoans, instead of being palagi all the time.”

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