Parliamentary Committee accused of misleading public

A Member of Parliament has accused a Parliamentary Committee of misleading members of the public about proposed changes to the constitution and Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) by making false promises. 

The Special Parliamentary Committee tasked to hear public submissions for the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, Lands and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020, of misleading the public.

The Member of Parliament for Salega East, Olo Fiti Vaai, claimed that the Committee has allegedly promised villagers to remove sections of the bills. This, Olo said, was a breach of Parliament's Standing Orders.

A matai from Taga Savai’i in a video posted by the Legislative Assembly Office said they have supported the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Judicature Bill 2020 and Land and Titles Court Bill 2020. 

“We are happy because the Committee has agreed to remove amendments on the matai title and have the family decide on their titleholders,” said the matai. 

“That is the whole reason we have now agreed to accept the bills. We are now made aware that the changes will not affect our customary lands.” 

The matai from Taga said it was the Committee that confirmed to their group that they will remove the amendment from the bills. 

But Olo said the Committee has breached standing orders by making false promises to the public to remove the amendments so they can win over the support of the people. 

“The Committee does not decide whether to remove amendments from the bills or not,” he said. 

“The procedure is that the report with recommendations is tabled in Parliament and then Parliament decides to uphold the recommendations or reject them. 

“This is a clear breach of standing orders where they have discussed and revealed recommendations with the public before it’s tabled in Parliament.” 

A request for an interview with the Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi was made through his secretary, Ioana Keipo. 

She noted the Speaker was in a meeting and will call back to confirm an appointment when he is free. 

The Legislative Assembly Clerk, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei who is in Savai’I for the consultation was asked for a comment through email. 

He did not respond by press time. 

An attempt is also being made to get a comment from the Chair of the Committee, Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow.

Under Parliamentary Standing Orders section 159, evidence taken before any Special Committee or any other document presented to such Committee shall not be published or divulged by any member of the Committee before the Committee has presented its report to the Assembly. 

Olo said what the Committee is doing during the consultation is illegal where they have laid out their recommendations before consultations have concluded. 

“It shouldn’t be called a Parliament Committee; they should have just called it a Cabinet Committee [because they] are [only] doing consultation to defend the bills,” he said. 

“They have instructions under standing orders and the disappointment with their works is instead of hearing the opinions of people they are defending it and debating with people. 

“That is not their job; they are supposed to be neutral and not try to influence people and their submissions.” 

He also criticised the Office of the Legislative Assembly of holding propagandas by way of posting videos of the villagers that support the proposed legislations. 

According to Olo the actions by the Legislative Assembly Office to publicly show their support of the bills without opposing views of other villages shows that they are no longer independent. 

“The Legislative Assembly Office should not hold themselves out to be in support of these bills,” said Olo. 

“They should be independent as the third pillar of Government but seeing the videos of only the villagers that support the bills just shows there is no longer any independence in Parliament. 

“So what is the point of denying the media from reporting people’s submissions when they are doing exactly that without being neutral?”  

All of the videos posted by the Legislative Assembly of villagers that made submissions are those that support the three bills. 

During the interviews, most of the villagers said they initially opposed the bills but after being explained the bills by the Committee they have agreed to support the changes. 




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