Petition to stop proposed bills gathers momentum

Samoa Solidarity International Group (S.S.I.G) Global, a non-government organisation, has garnered close to 6000 signatures on an online petition to stop changes to the Government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system.

At the time of writing more than 5700 people have signed the petition which seeks to block the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Bill 2020, Judicature Bill 2020.

The Samoa Solidarity International Group was established in 2017 and is led by Namulauulu Albert Ainu’u. The organisation’s headquarters is currently located in Seattle U.S.A.

The petition was launched on the website under the title “Block the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land & Titles Bill 2020, Judicature Bill 2020.”

The application, launched by the S.S.I.G., argues that the new laws will give the Samoan Government too much power, including giving the right to interfere with a family's traditional right to choose their own matai (chiefs) through the creation of an independent Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.). 

The organisation also says land belonging to families, which lies below the high water mark, will become public land without consultation. 

It also states that the Constitution of Samoa should not be amended without consultation including a formal discussion with the traditional Government because the proposed changes affect the traditional rights of Samoans.

Due to the current COVID-19 crisis the organisation demands that all further activity be suspended regarding the proposed bills and amendments until at least the months after restrictions are lifted. The S.S.I.G. says there is no emergency requiring Parliament to rush these laws into existence.

Last month, the three Bills were tabled in Parliament and have already reached the third reading stage, which is the final chance for debate.

The changes would separate the L.T.C. from the rest of the judiciary and remove the ability from plaintiffs in cases before that court to appeal its rulings to the Supreme Court. 

Current and former judges on the Samoan bench, the former Attorney General and the Samoan Law Society have written lengthy and detailed letters highlighting their concerns and demand for a delay on the Bills’ proceeding.

But Government leaders, in particular the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, and the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Faafisi, have hit back at their critiques, arguing that the chance to discuss the bills' effects on the Samoan judicial system was in 2016, when a Special Inquiry Committee was tasked with investigating public concerns with the L.T.C.

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