Land and Titles Court Assessors fight for jobs

Assessors for the Lands and Titles Court have appealed to a Special Parliamentary Committee not to strip them of their duties, following plans in the Lands and Titles Bill 2020 before Parliament. 

In a letter addressed to the Chairperson of the Committee, Gatoloaifaana Alesana Gidlow, dated 20 April, 2020, a number of assessors plea for the continuation of their jobs. 

The Special Parliamentary Committee is tasked to review the proposed Constitutional amendments and conduct public hearings to hear views from the public on their concerns over the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020.

The submission is signed by 10 Assessors, and they claim they are representing more than 30 Assessors working in the L.T.C. for Savai'i and Upolu.  The Assessors duties are outlined in the 1981 Land and Titles Act; however the Land and Titles Bill 2020 seeks to repeal the 1981 Land and Titles Act and its proposed changes do not include a role for Assessors. 

The Assessors in their letter expressed concerns as to why the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u, is moving to “remove” them.

“We have read the Lands and Titles Bill 2020 and it is clear the Assessors duties are removed from the Lands and Titles Court and it’s unclear why the Minister is mistreating High Chiefs of Samoa accorded as Assessors in the Lands and Titles Court,” a translation of the letter reads. 

The Samoa Observer contacted the Minister on the phone for comments, but there was no response. Email and text messages were also not returned, while a visit to his residence in Moto’otua was also unsuccessful. 

“The removal of Assessors from the L.T.C. in Mulinu’u and Tuasivi is offensive [and we are] to be replaced by lawyers. We testify that there is a difference lawyers working on criminal cases, such as theft, rape, sexual connection, drugs etc., and knowing the culture and the Samoan way. There is a difference and we can attest to that,” the letter reads. 

The Assessors argue they have no say regarding the proposed amendments to the Constitution but their submission is for the parliamentary Committee examining the bills to consider the role of assessors. 

The Assessors noted the Lands and Titles Bill that was submitted in 2019 which was later withdrawn, also sought to remove the duties of Assessors. 

“And this is the same for the [current] proposed amendment there are no Assessors [in the bill] and this was done with any consultation to explain to us why there is no need for Assessors for the L.T.C. as it should for democratic government, but not Communism as it will not end well,” the letter reads. 

The Assessors that signed the submission are Patea Aipovi; Lalau Laauli Talauta Laupepa; Tevaga Sasulu Vainalepa; Saena Puleinu’u Kapeneta; Malu Tofilau Fa’ala’aitaua; Talamatavao Sara Tyrell; Masi Levi Hunt; Fainu’ulua Emelio Hunt; Te’o Mauga Uvalu; Seveali’i Naseri and Lotolausou Ilalio. 


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