What’s there to brainstorm for a barnstorming Politician?

By The Editorial Board 22 May 2020, 1:00AM

With all the uncertainty hanging in the air over the Government’s proposal to restructure the Judiciary, you would have to sympathise with Government lawyers, who are torn between their “signed and sealed employment oath” to their employer and their loyalty to the community and the nation.

The lawyers have come under scrutiny since the Samoa Law Society announced its intention to oppose the Government’s proposed reforms of the Judiciary, which would come courtesy of Parliament’s passing of the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, the Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020.

Early this month, the Samoa Observer reported that lawyers in the Attorney General’s Office were warned against opposing the three Bills, with Acting Attorney General Galumalemana Noumea Loretta Teueli later saying details of the meeting – where the threats were allegedly made – remain confidential.

A number of lawyers also told this newspaper that their online activities were being monitored.

And the scrutiny has not ended, it appears, as the Government-owned Savali newspaper on Wednesday published an article with the headline “PM brainstorms with Government Attorney”. The article had brief details of a meeting this week between Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, and lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office and the Samoa Law Reform Commission.

Tuilaepa reportedly reminded the lawyers of “their signed and sealed employment oath as loyal public servants to the Government and people of Samoa”. He also used the occasion to advise that the Government is not circumventing their rights as attorneys or individuals, but if they feel strongly that their freedom and rights are compromised by the Government’s Judicial reforms then they “should do the most honourable thing”.

This was obviously not a “brainstorming” meeting as the Savali newspaper’s headline suggested, but an opportunity for the Prime Minister to barnstorm to the lawyers to show who is in charge, and the lengths he is willing to go to ensure the three Bills are passed despite local and international condemnation.

According to the Savali newspaper, there were close to 50 lawyers in attendance at that meeting that day, and we can only imagine what must have been going through their minds as they listened to Tuilaepa. Somewhere, in their minds, they would have thought about their oaths that the P.M. made reference to, and then juxtaposed that to the mission statement and vision of the Attorney General’s Office whom they work for.

What is the mission statement of the Attorney General’s Office? To serve the people of Samoa by upholding the Constitution and providing the highest quality legal services to the Government.

And what is the vision of the Attorney General’s Office? To ensure a safe and just society through the provision of quality and effective legal services.

Legal experts including sitting Judges of Samoa’s Supreme Court, a former Judge, local and international jurisprudence bodies, and international human rights organisations have condemned the Government’s proposed reforms of the Judiciary over the last four weeks, warning that the altering of Samoa’s Constitution threatens citizens’ fundamental rights and would have an adverse effect on the rule of law.

And with all the arguments that have been made thus far against the Government’s proposed Judicial reforms, we can conclude that the mission statement of the Attorney General’s Office “to serve the people of Samoa by upholding the Constitution” is at the edge of the precipice as the Constitution becomes vulnerable upon the three Bills' enactment.

Even the vision of the Attorney General’s Office “to ensure a safe and just society”, has been stomped on and made a mockery of through the proposed Judicial reforms. The three Bills, if enacted by Parliament in August, would have huge ramifications for families and villages and could create an unjust and unsafe society.

At the end of the day, the Government should respect the Attorney General’s Office, the role it plays in our country, and the professionalism of the lawyers that it currently employs. 

Ultimately, the Attorney General’s Office belongs to the people and should its staff feel – in their professional opinion – that the three Bills would impact negatively on citizens and the nation then they are obliged by their oath “to ensure a safe and just society” and advise accordingly.

By The Editorial Board 22 May 2020, 1:00AM

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