Lotofaga to take L.T.C. "concerns" to Committee
The Lotofaga Village Council has decided to submit their “concerns [and] advice” on three bills proposing to reshape the judiciary and establish an independent Land and Titles Court to the Parliamentary Committee reviewing the bills.
The decision was confirmed by a paramount chief of Lotofga, Tupuola Koki Tuala, who said the Council had identified concerns about the changes and they will highlight these concerns with a Parliamentary committee consulting the public on the legislation but had not yet reached an official position
Lotofaga's Member of Parliament and Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, confirmed her constituency met twice to discuss the issues pertaining to the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, which supports two other bills, the Lands and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020.
“We have had two meetings and we have decided we would make submissions to the Committee,” Fiame said.
“Regarding the claims [there are people] opposing and that others are for [the bills], but I don’t think the discussion should be limited to that. I think it is very important [to note] the public has the option to go directly to the [Parliamentary] Committee, hence the resolution by our constituency.
“There are a lot of things that we would like [to seek] verification [on from the Committee].”
The bills would collectively amend the Constitution and create an independent and self-contained Land and Titles Court the decisions of which would no longer be subject to Supreme Court appeal or review.
A special committee from Parliament is currently holding hearings with members of the public on the proposed changes.
Fiame declined to say whether she supported the bills, which have reached their second reading stage of the Parliamentary process.
“In short, I will not say we will oppose or support but we will make our submission to the Committee,” said Fiame.
Several Chiefs from Matatufu and Lotofaga, who declined to be named, told the Samoa Observer that opposition to the bills was raised in the villages towards the legislation.
Critics were said to have cited the bills’ potential to create conflict between families due to the limits they place on the bestowal of family titles.
Fiame said there is nothing wrong with Chiefs from her constituency to voice opposition to the bill.
“However the Council has concluded to make submissions. I also informed our Council, the discussion is not whether we support or oppose the discussion I think needs to be a lot more nuanced than just oppose or support,” she said.
The Deputy Prime Minister noted there are complex issues involved in the proposed changes.
“I told our Constituency that they should be making their decision with the full understanding of the proposed law. And part of it is that we will pose questions on issues that we are not clear and issues we are concerned about,” she said.
The chiefs of Lotofaga referred all queries to their official spokesman, Tupuola Koki Tuala; who also emphasised they are not opposing or supporting the bill.
“And like any constituency, our village met, and then our entire constituency met and concluded to submit our submissions,” Tupuola said.
“This is the first part of our own consultations, we discussed it in the village and then the constituency, and given the importance of the proposed bills, we wanted to make our submissions.”
Asked about the concerns raised by chiefs that oppose the proposed bills, Tupuola said that in any meeting concerns are raised and they will be included in their submission.
“We will not say that we oppose or support the bill: we have concerns and we will discuss it with the committee and go from there,” he said.