Govt's plan a "virus", Olo warns

Member of Parliament for Salega East, Olo Fiti Vaai, has compared the Government's plan to create an independent Lands and Titles Court to a "virus creeping in to invade" the Judiciary.

He warns that the impact of the plan will be far greater than the coronavirus pandemic which has devastated the global economy - including Samoa.

The Independent M.P. says that after discussions with his constituency, the elders from the electorate have instructed him to oppose the change when the bills are brought back to Parliament for the third and final reading.

The proposed change is contained in three bills that have been referred to a special Parliament Committee which started public hearings on Friday. The bills are the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Lands and Titles Court Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020.

Olo joins a growing number of people, including Judges of the Court and the Samoa Law Society, to oppose the proposed change.

“I call it a virus because people are not aware of it,” Olo said during an interview with the Samoa Observer.

“It affects us that are alive and it will affect our children, and the unborn future generations. It really hurts because the impact from this virus will be far greater than the coronavirus pandemic that we are currently facing.” 

Furthermore, he said the proposed changes when implemented will cause conflict and contradiction between decisions delivered by the Supreme Court and the Lands and Titles Court. 

He used customary lands being leased as an example. He said the bill will give the L.T.C. jurisdiction to rule on it while at the same time the Supreme Court can also look into the lease contract.

“You will end up with two decisions and that will cause a conflict of which decision is superior than the other,” he said. 

Once the bills undergo public consultation, it will be referred back to parliament for third reading before it becomes law. 

For the Constitution amendment bill, it has to have the two third majority support from the M.Ps in order for it to be passed. 

Olo has called on all Members of Parliament to remember the people who voted them into the House. He challenged Parliamentarians to exercise their conscious vote to decide on what is best for the future of their families, district and the whole country. 

“During this time, an M.P. should not think about his political party rules but should prioritise the people that placed them there,” he said. 

“When the time comes they will have to vote [for the bills] I want to remind them of those voters and what they want and not any political party rules. 

“Listen to the people that put you in that seat…my constituency had given me direct instructions to vote against this and I will obey them and their wish.” 

He pointed out that if the bills gets passed in Parliament, any future Government would unlikely be able to change it.

In terms of villagers who are still uncertain about the proposed changes, Olo said it is the responsibility of the M.P. to explain to their district what the legislations are about. 

“If people are in the dark about this, then it shows that the M.P. hasn’t done what they are supposed to do," he said. 

“It also supports the claim from the Samoa Law Society that there was no public consultation and people need to understand these changes and should not be brainwashed with those daily programmes being aired on the radio...” 

Prime Minister, Tuliaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi in Parliament this week addressed what he claims are “incorrect information” on the bills by those that oppose it. 

He said the amendments are not major changes.  Tuilaepa reaffirms that the spirit of the amendment is to receognise Communal rights.

He elaborated that the Bill aims to incorporate the Village Fono ‘Pulega a Alii ma Faipule’ and their rights and decisions to be recognised under the new amendment.

In addition, Tuliaepa also clarified the difference between the Criminal and Civil Court and L.T.C.

“In the past Samoa's justice system always had one Chief Justice that overlooked both the European Courts and the Land and Titles Court,” he said.

“An amendment was made to the Principal Act in 2004 – to establish the position of President of Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) to deal with its matters as the Chief Justice at the time was unable to effectively execute his roles in the Land and Titles Court.”

He said that consultation he had with the former Chief Justice which spawned the idea of the incorporation of a President to oversee matters pertaining to L.T.C.

The Prime Minister added that although the amendment at the time seemed ludicrous, it proved effective.

He noted the changes are an indicator of the proactive approach of the Human Rights Protection Party.

Tuilaepa then put forth the question whether there were any complaints when the C.J. and L.T.C. amendment in 2004 was enacted.

“There were no complaints recorded,” he recalled.

He then commended the former C.J. in being a visionary and his foresight in relation to the proposed amendments with Parliament.

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