Committee, village noncommittal on L.T.C. changes

Villages discussed bills containing proposed major changes to the nation's judiciary with a Special Parliamentary Committee on Friday. 

Vaimauga No. 4, Sogi, Mulinuu and Savalalo said they had not decided if they supported the bills yet but also that the committee emphasised that the most controversial aspects could be "revoked". 

The villages appeared together at the Parliamentary Select Committee, which is carrying out public consultations on the bills which would create an autonomous Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.).

But the bills' most controversial aspects - such as a limit of five on the number of paramount chiefs per family - could be revoked, the villagers were told, according to village representative, Filita'a Ta'au.

Ms. Ta'a,u, from Sogi, said they do not have a solid position on the three bills in question: the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, the Lands and Titles Court Bill 2020, and the Judicature Bill 2020.

But the most significant part of Friday's meeting, Ms. Ta'au said, was the Parliamentary Committee's assurances that some of the controversial provisions in the bills could be retracted. 

"The explanation of the bills we got was, I guess after they had taken into account the concerns of many other matai before us, especially with the limit on the number of paramount chiefs a family can have. We had been told that they have accepted the concerns of the villages saying the provision in question] will be revoked from the bills as they leave it up to villages and families to choose how many paramount chiefs they want,” Ms. Ta'au said. 

"They also explained that the Government does not have anything to do with customary lands as some have alluded to unless a family agrees to put their lands on lease. And these were the major provisions we were aiming to ask for clarity on."

The village is yet to formally discuss the reforms together within the villages, Ms. Ta'au said. 

Ms. Ta'au said they will be carefully reviewing and discussing amongst themselves using the handouts given out by the Select Committee on Friday.

It is the first time the villages have grappled with the bills and what they truly stand for in terms of changing the judiciary.

"Currently, we have no position on the three bills, but we are appreciative of the chance to hear and understand these three bills as before this, it seems to have been just words from here and there and we do not know who is right," Ms. Ta'au said.  

"We told the Parliamentary Committee we will read what we have been given, consider what they have said and discuss further with our villages."

Vaimauga No. 4 were the only group to meet with the Select Committee on Friday at the Tofilau Eti Alesana building at Mulinu'u .

The bills are currently at the second reading stage in the Legislative Assembly with the Committee tasked to collect views from villages and report back to the Parliament.

The bills would not return to the Parliament for the third reading until the Committee hears from all villages throughout the country. 

Each village gets an hour and thirty minutes to meet with the Committee.


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