Minister defends proposed amendments to the Constitution

The Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, is standing by his move to include the rights of the Villages Councils into the Constitution. 

“The rights of the Village Council are not in the Constitution and yet the Chiefs play a vital role in our daily lives,” Tuitama said. 

“We have seen it on the daily basis that when the Village Council levies a penalty, it’s thrown out in court.

“And that is because the Constitution only tailors for the rights of individuals.”

Tuitama, who is a High Chief, said the Village Councils play an integral role in maintaining social order and passing judgement on offences in the traditional villages for those who violate the rules and policies in the village. 

“If we did not have Councils in the villages, we would be facing maybe the highest criminal rate in the region. The Chiefs keep the youth and the village people in check, because they know they can be penalised on the village level. Also we do not have enough police manpower to cater to matters in the village,” the Minister said. 

The Minister is adamant the Village Council offers assistance to the Police when criminal matters arise. 

The Minister said, under the Village Fono Act, the law acts to validate and empower the exercise of power and authority by the Village, but it is limited. 

Under Article four of the Constitution: remedies for enforcement of rights include 

(1) Any person may apply to the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings to enforce the rights conferred under the provisions of this part 

(2) the Supreme Court shall have power to make all such orders as may be necessary and appropriate to secure to the applicant the enjoyment of the rights conferred under the provision of this part. 

It is proposed that under Article four amended: 

Clause (1) of Article four  is amended by substituting “any person” with the following: “Subject to judicial review matters arising from the proceedings in Part IX Land and Titles Courts, any person”.

These are among the changes proposed by the three bills which have drawn criticism against the Government: the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020; Land and Titles Court Bill 2020; and the Judicature Bill 2020. 

As reported earlier, the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi in Parliament said the Constitution recognises the rights of an individual over a group of people like village council. 

“The rights recognised by common law are from papalagi, they came from the traditions of Britain,” he claimed. 

“These are their customs; they are palagi customs because they do not have a culture like Samoa where villages are governed by ali’i ma faipule.” 

The Samoa Law Society says that removing the right of any person with a matter before the Lands and Titles Court to seek remedies for breach of their fundamental rights under Part 2 of the Constitution.  

President Leiataualesa Komisi Koria said the 12 rights in the Constitution protects everyone, such as the right to simply be alive; the right to be undisturbed; the right to freedom of movement; amongst others. 

He said human rights are reinforced by the fa’asamoa and it encapsulates what he believes the Government is referring to about communal rights. He made reference to the Ombudsman’s report in 2015 of the “State of Human Rights Report” that fa’asamoa and individual rights are protected in the Constitution and do not conflict with each other. 

Accordingly, he said, the fa’asamoa and individual rights protect the same thing. 

“The report actually says that human rights are underpinned by core values of respect, dignity equally and security for everyone,” he said of the Ombudsman’s report. 

“Similarly, fa’asamoa or the Samoan way of life holds core values that guide social interaction such as respect, dignity, love, protection and service; they mutually reinforce human rights.

“That has been the message from our government to the international community so for the Government to say that somehow individual rights are eroding the faasamoa that is directly contrary to what they said in the past.”






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