Tautua Party joins fight against L.T.C. overhaul

By Soli Wilson 09 May 2020, 9:00PM

The Tautua Samoa Party has joined the position of the Samoa Law Society and the joint movement of other political parties to oppose the Lands and Titles Courts' proposed changes by the Government.

Leader, Luagalau Dr. Afualo Salele says the pool of knowledge pertaining to the current Lands and Titles Court is efficient. But what they need is a boost of resources from the Government to improve the quality of decisions handed down in that Court.

In a pres conference on Friday, he highlighted that the Tautua Samoa Political Party does not agree to the changes, saying it is a burden to families and it puts customary lands of Samoa at risk.

The three pieces of legislation involved are the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, L.T.C. Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020.  

Not only does it put customary lands at risk, families will also be ripped apart as a result of limiting the number of high chief titles to five for each family.

“We strongly oppose this. Why would a law touch the heart of families and descendants of Samoa? It is going to be the reason for many conflicts as only five may not satisfy all sides of a family,” Afualo said.

He reiterated that such matters are something the Government should never even think of touching.

“These changes will solidify the fact that it will be the reason why the Government has a say in extended family matters in the future.

“In terms of choosing the chief titles and how many, other big changes will surely follow which includes the use and taking charge of customary lands.

“The treasures and your identity and will be affected by these bills, which are strongly opposing a clause in these bills requiring a representative of the Government (pulenu’u or sui tama’ita’i) in villages to attend families’ title bestowment ceremonies.”

Afualo compared such a requirement to the Samoan proverb, only the snake looks at its slayer.

“Like I said, there’s no reason from them to get involved in such matters. And once these representatives are in, the Government will have a say on who gets the title and who does not, depending on whom they prefer from a certain family.”

The Tautua leader emphasized that removing the inquisitorial element of the L.T.C. under proposed legislation of allowing a lawyer to represent families in Court will only be a burden to families as it will incur more costs.

This will only discourage families who are willing to fight for their treasures, he said.

 “The Lands and Titles Courts will just be like the Criminal courts or Supreme Court, meaning there is bound to be a struggle between these two courts.”

“There are two legs of Judiciary right now, one being Lands and Titles Court and the other being common law. The Judiciary just needs a boost in resources to improve the quality of services for both legs, while reserving the one and top Supreme Court for everyone.

“Because now two different decisions will be made, there is no justice in that and we know that it is something that should not be done.”

Afualo reiterated that Tautua Samoa does not support having two separate court systems, saying they would rather support a review on the works of the L.T.C. to improve efficiency and their quality of services and decisions.

The same views were echoed by the President of the Samoa Law Society, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria who said the Lands and Titles Court will become another Supreme Court.

“The disputes will [then] be determined on legal arguments and it will complicate matters before Lands and Titles Court when it should be focused on genealogy and customs rights,” he said.  

By Soli Wilson 09 May 2020, 9:00PM

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