M.P. backs L.T.C. bills over villages' opposition
The Member of Parliament from Palauli-Le-Falefa, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, will stand behind the proposed Lands and Titles Court changes before Parliament despite acknowledging two villages in his constituency oppose them.
“I do what I can for [my constituency], irrespective whether they vote for me or not, I will do what is right,” the veteran M.P. said.
“I am not against the bill, because I know it will benefit us in the long run especially my constituency, they will know it later, but not now.
“The villages that are against are, Gataivai and Sili, but for Sili, I am told its fifty per cent for and fifty per cent against, but Gataivai profusely objects to the bills.
“I will not base my vote over the objection of some of the villages in my constituency. I will not do that, I will do it for the future of my Constituency, they may not see that now, but they will see it later.”
He said that Gataivai Village Council has taken the side of the Samoa Law Society and the Samoa Solidarity International Group.
Efforts to get direct comments from the Gataivai Village Council were not successful on Friday.
But the M.P. said that the other two villages that composed his constituency, Papa and Puleia, are in favour of the bills.
Faumuina who has been a Member of Parliament for 20 years and has served as a Minister in portfolios including Finance said the bills will go a long way for all Samoans.
The three bills in question are the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020 that will establish an independent Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.).
Collectively they will create an autonomous court not subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court.
He said these bills were discussed during the Human Rights Protection Party caucus.
“The separation of the Lands and Titles Court from the criminal court, is a given. I fully support that, because, in the end, they acknowledge the rights of the village councils.
“There are human rights and natural rights and it will be afforded under these proposed bills.
“Other issues factored into my decision are the appeal process proposed in the L.T.C. bills also the fact that it costs less for our people. Also, afford the opportunity for previous [L.T.C.] cases for re-hear.”
Faumuina, however, expressed concerns over the proposal to limit the number of Matai Sa’o (paramount chief) per family to five.
The bills, which are currently at the second reading stage of the Parliamentary process, are before a Special Parliamentary Committee which is currently soliciting feedback on the bill from villages.
Since the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020 were tabled in Parliament many of the nation’s legal fraternity and its Judges have expressed concerns about the proposed changes.
International bodies, too, including the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission’s Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers who has spoken out against the changes.
The Samoa Law Society (S.L.S.) has been seeking to translate the impact of the proposed changes into simple language to inform people of the potential impact of the bills.
Spearheaded by former Attorney General, Taulapapa Brenda Heather – Latu, the S.L.S. is urging the Government to reconsider the bills and to hold a consultation on the significant changes.
Following the three bills being tabled in Parliament, the lawyers association had set up a sub-committee to conduct research on the proposed changes and identify “problematic areas”.
The Society claims that the amendment means that the Supreme Court will no longer have the exclusive jurisdiction to interpret the Constitution.
It argues that once the bills become law, people are no longer able to seek appeal on decisions from the L.T.C. that infringes Constitutional rights of a person.
The proposed change will mean the L.T.C.’s jurisdiction will be expanded to also interpret the Constitution, say the S.L.S.
Another matter raised by the Society in the bills is that the proposed change will destroy the separation of powers for the three branches of Government.
One of the constitutional amendment states that the Head of State, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, may refer to the Land and Titles Court of Appeal and Review for its opinion on any question about the interpretation on the effect of any provision arising from the Land and Titles Court of Appeal and Review Court for its opinion on any question so referred to it.
But the S.L.S. says this is a “slap of the face” to the separation of powers principles.