Govt. seeks independent legal opinion on L.T.C. Bills

The Government has moved to seek an independent legal opinion on three bills which lawyers and legal experts say threaten the concept of the rule of law in Samoa. 

The decision was confirmed by the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, who declined to confirm the lawyers selected by the Government for the job.

The bills in question are the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020. They are before a Special Parliamentary Committee which is meeting with members of the public to seek their views about the changes being proposed.

In response to questions from the Samoa Observer, Tuilaepa said the Government is seeking an independent legal review of the bills to strengthen them.

He added that this is especially crucial to counter what he called "false publications" in the Samoa Observer quoting many legal experts, including the President of the Samoa Law Society.

“For the most of the publications from the Samoa Observer made [by those opposing the bills] there are a lot of false claims made by lawyers that have misinterpreted the law,” Tuilaepa said. “There are quite a few lawyers that are involved [in misinterpreting the bills].” 

President of the Samoa Law Society, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, when contacted for comment by the Samoa Observer said he had no comment to make in relation to the Prime Minister's accusation.

"I have had an opportunity to express my views on a variety of things relating to the Bills, I have nothing further to add. But I would be interested to hear how my comments on those things are false," he added. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa was also asked to confirm reports that the contract for an independent review of the L.T.C. Bills costs $100,000.

He said it is normal to contract independent lawyers in matters where the Government needs an independent opinion. 

“In anything that the Government needs independent view outside of the Government, then that discretion is used for contracts,” the Prime Minister explained.

“Contracts are done in a lot of Government works, just like you all, and so the Government seeks independent view of other lawyers that are not working for Government.” 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa was also asked if its true that the newly appointed Attorney General, Savalenoa Mareva Betham, was among the lawyers that the Government had considered for the contract, prior to her new role.

Tuilaepa refused to talk about the lawyers who have been tasked with the review.

“Whoever it is [contractor] – it is based on on their knowledge,” he said. “There are a lot of lawyers that are qualified but have very small common knowledge.” 

Prior to Savalenoa’s appointment as the Attorney General, the Samoa Observer asked her last month to comment on reports if she had been approached for the contract in question.

At the time, Savalenoa flatly denied the reports.

“If I was given $100,000, I would not be at court for my legal aid case,” she said. 

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