L.T.C bills handout emphasises right to second appeal

Villages and members of the public meeting with the Special Parliamentary Committee, reviewing three bills concerning the Judiciary and the Land and Titles Court, are handed an information paper in Samoan, which promotes what the Government sees as selling points for the bills. 

The right to a second appeal before the Lands and Titles Court is among the issues emphasised in the information paper distributed by staff of the Legislative Assembly before parties make submissions before the Committee.

The Special Parliamentary Committee has started its work in Upolu following its sessions in Savai'i. On the information paper for the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020, its primary focus is on the L.T.C. Court Structure. 

According to the overview of the three bills in the information sheet in Samoan, it states that the changes is to firstly “reflect Samoa in its Constitution and its laws”. 

Secondly, it is to “include the Land and Titles Court in the Constitution of Samoa, the Court that deals with Samoan culture and heritage provided for matters in the Land and Titles Court.”

The information paper summarised the changes in the Constitution Bill 2020 to create an independent land and Titles Court in terms of its decisions, appeal decisions and judicial review. 

“Culture and heritage has been provided for as stipulated in accordance with the Courts authority under the Land and Titles Court in the Constitution of Samoa,” says the handout. 

It also reaffirms that “the individual rights remain”.  

“The President of the Land and Titles Court under a certificate grant an appeal for a serious matter. 

“The right to a second appeal [final appeal] is granted to appeal a matter from the Land and Titles High Court.”

The information paper also advocated that the judicial review that is currently being decided in the Supreme Court will be done by the Land and Titles Court of Appeal. 

“This means that the right to a judicial review is not affected, it is retained,” stated the information paper. 

“The powers under the Criminal Court [Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and District Court] remains.

“It is provided that the Samoan culture should be recognised in the Criminal Court. 

“There is an opportunity to further review a matter in the Land and Titles Court, and the decisions from the Court of Final Appeal is final and ultimate.” 

The information sheet also included a graph that states that only seven percent of Articles in the Constitution that relates to Samoan customs and usages while 93 per cent is on other matters. 

It added that it is only the Preamble of the Constitution and eight other Articles in the Constitution that talks about the Samoan culture.

The information paper does not talk about the limitation of matai sao, a major concern raised by many villages to the proposed changes. 

It also did not talk about the proposed changes in terms of appointing and removing a Supreme Court Judge by the Judicial Service Commission.  

Attempts to get a comment from President of the Samoa Law Society, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria were not successful. 

A position paper from the Samoa Law Society on the three bills outlined several major changes to the judiciary system including the destruction of separation of three arms of power. 

The legal fraternity had raised concerns about the removal of the right of any person with a matter before L.T.C. to seek remedies for breach of their fundamental rights under the Constitution. 

Lawyers also argued the changes will remove the protection of Supreme Court Judges guaranteed under the Constitution in terms of their appointment and removal. 

In terms of the L.T.C. Bill 2020, the Samoa Law Society said the changes is dangerous in a way that the L.T.C. Court can now declare any land customary land giving it exclusive authority to customs and usage matters. 

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