L.T.C. changes to face legal challenge
Two political parties say they will fight the Government in Court to stop three bills to reconfigure the Lands and Titles Court (L.T.C.) and Judiciary if they pass into law.
The Samoa National Democratic Parties (S.N.D.P.) and the Samoa First Political Party (S.F.P.P.) joined forces last week to oppose the bills reaching the third reading stage in Parliament.
The opposition parties have also urged the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali'ifano Sualauvi Vaaletoa II, not to provide his assent to the bills.
The bills are the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, the Lands and Titles Bill 2020, and the Judicature Bill 2020.
Together they will create an entirely autonomous L.T.C. The court will severed from the existing judicial branch and remove the power of the Supreme Court to oversee judicial review of the L.T.C. and for unsuccessful parties to appeal its decisions to the Supreme Court.
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. Instead the L.T.C would be a self-contained judicial branch with its own Court of First Instance, a High Court and a Court of Final Appeal and Review.
Opponents of the bills say their changes would negatively affect fundamental rights of the Samoan people.
The S.N.D.P. President, Vui Seigafolava Masinamua, confirmed that the newly re-created opposition party would support a movement to take the Government to court should the three bills be passed.
Vui also warned the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, calling out his political party’s actions as “illegal.”
“Of course, that is what we are looking at; an injunction [the S.N.D.P. and S.F.P.P.] are focusing on right now is to stop the bills from reaching the third reading,” he said.
Vui alleged any amendments made by the current Government to the Constitution are illegal and should be disallowed.
“The biggest worry is for the country, but my request is for the people to be still as such bills will be the birth of conflicts in families, that’s the worst part,” he said.
“I urge the matai in the villages to watch intently as elections are near, [H.R.P.P.] will caress you with their left hand while Tuilaepa and H.R.P.P.’s fists are kept hidden behind your backs.”
During a joint press conference held by the two political parties, the S.F.P.P. leader, Unsasa Iuni Sapolu called the timing of the bills’ introduction, shortly before the introduction of a national state of emergency, “dirty politics” and very poor.
This comes after the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, confirmed that there was no public consultation before the Lands and Titles Court Bill 2019 was tabled in Parliament.
That bill was later withdrawn and replaced with the Land and Titles Court Bill 2020, the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020 which proposes the independent L.T.C. Court.
According to Article 109 of the Constitution:
“Any of the provisions of this Constitution may be amended or repealed by Act, and new provisions may be inserted in this Constitution by Act, if a bill for any such purpose is supported at its third reading by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total number of Members of Parliament (including vacancies) and if not fewer than 90 days elapse between the second and third readings of that bill:
“Provided that no bill amending, repealing or adding to the provisions of Article 102 or the provisions of this proviso shall be submitted to the Head of State for assent until it has been submitted to a poll of the electors on the rolls for the territorial constituencies established under the provisions of Article 44 and unless it has been supported by two-thirds of the valid votes cast in such a poll.”