P.M. says lawyers' criticisms political
The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has dismissed the Samoa Law Society’s objection to proposed reform of the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) as politically motivated.
The Law Society’s is understood to object to three bills before Parliament, which they claim threatens to demolish the Judiciary and rule of law in Samoa. That objection, Tuilaepa said, amounts to a breach of mutual respect (soli le va tapuia).
The three bills - Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020 - are expected to be tabled before the Cabinet again next week.
Under the proposal, introduced to Parliament last month, the L.T.C. would be a parallel and independent judicial structure, including its own High Court and Court of Final Appeal and Review, removing the option to appeal L.T.C. decisions to the Supreme Court.
Earlier this month the judiciary collectively expressed “grave concerns” about the risks of proposed changes to the makeup of the constitution and the courts, in a letter that was published in this newspaper.
During a live statement delivered on social media on Friday evening, the Prime Minister said the lawyers had not pursued the proper processes when expressing their concerns.
"What's happening is that the [Samoa Law Society] are taking the wrong approach to things. The proper way is through the Parliament Committee and not to publicise it," said Tuilaepa.
"It is not a matter to be discussed publicly, it has to go through the committee but because it has been publicised I thought I should answer.
"But when I answer it seems to cause more ruckus, but it hasn't even been discussed in Parliament yet.
"These concerns are to be dealt with by the committee where there are follow up questions and reviewed by Committee members, Professionals, Members of Parliament and relevant parties; it is what they were chosen to do."
Tuiaepa added that the lawyers need to leave politics to the politicians.
Last week the Law Society’s President, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, had questioned whether the Bills had been rushed through Parliament, saying that every Samoan had the right to question “what’s the rush?”
But the Society had breached a line of mutual respect, the Prime Minister claimed.
"In the future, I advise them to go through the proper procedures, and take their concerns to the Committee responsible for such matters," Tuilaepa said.
His comments follow him scoffing at the Samoa Law Society’s concerns saying they suggested they were suffering from deficiencies caused by the coronavirus.
He also criticised Justice Lautalatoa Pierre Slicer's outspoken criticism of the proposed changes saying he should not talk as he is not a Samoan.
The retired Judge of Samoa’s Supreme Court, condemned the proposed Bill to create an independent Land and Titles Court as a “disaster” that would “destroy the concept of the rule of law”.
The proposed amendment would betray the intention of the founding fathers who authored the nation’s constitution, Justice Lautalatoa said.
The Prime Minister's comments come after a former Member of Parliament, Leanapapa Laki Anderson, said Tuilaepa and his administration have turned Parliament into a mere “rubber stamp” for the Executive.
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.
Former Attorney General, Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu 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.”