Media banned from L.T.C. bills Parliamentary hearing

A Special Parliamentary Committee appointed to review the Land and Titles Court Bill 2020, Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020 opens its public hearing on Friday.

But the media cannot attend and report on the proceedings of the committee hearing. 

This was confirmed by the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.

“While this hearing may be called a public hearing, but the media are not allowed inside and they cannot report the activities of the hearing," he said. "It is called a public hearing where members of the public are welcomed to submit verbal or written submissions."

Given the public interest in the nature of the bills, Tiatia was asked whether the Legislative Assembly will consider opening the hearing to the media.

“These hearings are confidential and it is also barred under the standing orders of Parliament,” he said. 

Asked to point out which clause of the Standing Orders, Tiatia could not recall but noted that all the hearings are conducted behind closed doors. 

"Do you recall the hearings conducted over the redefining of electoral boundaries, the media was not allowed," he said. 

"It is standing policy; once the hearing is concluded, a report will be tabled in Parliament, only then the contents of what was said in the hearings will be made public. That is the Parliamentary process."

The hearing is held amidst growing opposition to the bills, which propose to establish an independent Land and Titles Court among other changes. More than 20 individuals and groups have expressed interest in appearing before the Committee.

The Special Inquiry Committee is chaired by senior Member of Parliament, Gatoloaifa’ana Amataga Gidlow.

The Vice Chairman is Namulau’ulu Papalii Sami Leota with members including Sulamanaia Tuivasa Tauiliili, Faaulusau Duffy Stowers, Fuimaono Teo Samuelu, Leaana Ronnie Posini and Ili Setefano Ta’ateo. 

According to Tiatia, there are 12 written submissions that are before the Committee. 

He further explained the Committee met and decided on a game plan on how to proceed with the hearing without violating provisions of the coronavirus (COVID-19)-related state of emergency (S.O.E.) orders.

“There will be four witnesses scheduled for the morning and four in the evening. We will also make use of teleconferencing facilities for online submissions.” 

He also noted that once the S.O.E. is lifted the Committee will go to the rural areas and Savai'i. 

“We will not stop here, we will take the hearings out to the villages; arrangements have already been made with the respective villages for the town hall meetings," he said.

“At the same time, we are still taking appointments from members of the public that wish to address any of the proposed amendments.” 

Tiatia urged the public to take note of the opportunity and attend the parliamentary committee hearings.

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