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L.T.C. President testifies

A public hearing of a Special Parliamentary Committee began on Friday with testimony from the President of the Lands and Titles Court (L.T.C.), Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati. 

Bills under scrutiny by the Committee are the Land Titles Court Bill 2020, Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020. 

Fepulea’i testified but did not do so in place of all L.T.C. Judges, the Committee was told. 

The Special Committee is composed of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration C.E.O., Moliei Simi Vaai, Acting Attorney General Loretta Teueli and the Samoa Law Reform Commissioner Teleiai Dr. Lalotoa Mulitalo. 

Fepulea’i told the Samoa Observer that he appeared before the Committee for himself. 

“They have their own submissions,” he said of his judicial; colleagues on the court after testifying on Friday afternoon. 

But when asked to share details of his submissions, Fepulea’I refused. 

The media cannot attend or report on the proceedings of the committee hearing.  

Last week Fepulea’i said the proposed bills would improve the administration and the efficiency of the L.T.C.

Fepulea'i's support for the bills contradicts the position of the Judges of the Civil and Criminal Court and the Samoa Law Society, as well as a growing number of prominent Samoans who have spoken out against the proposed changes. 

“I respect their views on the issue,” Fepulea'i said.

“But as the President of the Land and Titles Court I agree with it (the proposed legislation) in that it will improve the operations of the Lands and Titles Court."

Under the proposal, 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.

The judiciary has expressed “grave concerns” about the risks of proposed changes to the makeup of the legislative branch by the Government, including the creation of an independent Lands and Titles Court.  

The reaction from the justices follows the introduction of three bills before in Parliament which seeks to reshape the nation’s judicial structure in Parliament last month. 

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, has said the hearing is conducted behind closed doors. 

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

The "collective view of the Samoa Judiciary" was expressed in a letter to the Executive Director of the Samoa Law Reform Commission, Teleiai Dr. Lalotoa Mulitalo, dated 6th April 2020 and signed by the Acting Chief Justice, Vui Clarence Nelson, Senior Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa, Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren, Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke, Justice Fepulea'i Ameperosa Roma, Senior Judge Talasa Atoa-Saaga, Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papalii, Judge Leota Ray Schuster and Judge Loau Donald Kerslake.

 

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