Tufulele and Utuali'i back L.T.C. changes

The villages of Tufulele and Utuali'i threw their support behind the Government's proposed changes to the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) and broader judiciary after meeting the Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday. 

The Committee is chaired by veteran Parliamentarian, Gatoloaifa'ana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow. Tuesday’s meeting was held at the St. Therese Accommodation at Le'auva'a. 

The villages' decision was confirmed by a paramount chief from Tufuluele, Ai'atele Aletaseta Luatuanu'u. 

Ai'atele said the village had a lot of questions at first, but only because they needed more information to understand what the changes would entail. 

The villages will make their support for the changes formal with a written submission to the Committee, to be circulated and signed by around all the village matai.

“We [had] a lot of questions to the Committee, because we wanted to understand these bills. We did not want to quickly give them a ‘yes’, but later on we [would] be sorry because we did not fully understand the reason why these changes were brought up in the first place,” Ai'atele said. 

"I was one of the people who asked a lot of questions. It's always good to ask questions, because now I understand.

"For the villages of Utuali'i and Tufulele, we will go back and write a written submission and note down all the things we want to review then pass it on to all the matai of the villages so they can sign (the written submission) before we hand it back to the Committee."

While Ai'atele said they raised their hands in support of the proposed changes, they still made some recommendations to the Committee for improving the proposed legislation. 

For instance, he said, they had objected to measures for limiting the number of paramount chiefs (matai sa'o) within a Samoan family.

"We have decided to support the changes behind the three bills. 

"Our concerns were mainly regarding the process of [the L.T.C.]. But now that they (the Committee) have explained the changes that they will now have four different people (Judges) in charge of making decisions regarding lands and titles matters. We are happy about that change and decided to support that part.

"About the limit [to] the number of paramount chiefs (matai sa'o), they (the Committee said they [would] remove that part so we are happy with it. 

The Special Commission of Inquiry is soliciting public feedback on the changes to the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, the Land and Titles Court Bill 2020, and the Judicature Bill 2020. They are at the second reading stage of the parliamentary process and, if passed, will create an autonomous L.T.C.

"The other thing [was] highlighting communal rights," said Ai'atele. 

"It reflects our culture and customs and we think it's a very good initiative to highlight both individual rights and communal rights."

The Committee welcomed the recommendations made by the villages, said Ai'atele. 

Moreover, Ai'atele said the committee promised that they would consider all the recommendations made by all the villages in regards to the bills being discussed. 

"They gave us their word saying they will review the part where it is proposing to limit the number of matai sa'o within a family,” Ai'atele said. 

"It would be sad if they decide not to walk the talk and follow [through with] what they've told us.

"It means that they have tricked us and that they are lying not only to us but also the whole of Samoa. These bills will affect the whole country, therefore, they need to seriously take in consideration the submissions from all the villages. 

"Whatever recommendations made by the villages, they should include all of that in the final report before these bills are passed in Parliament to become laws. 

"In my opinion, these consultations are vital. This is what democracy is all about. The government should always listen and take into account what the people are saying. 

"I wish the Committee all the best and God bless our country."

Public consultations continue and the Committee will now move to Nofoali'i to continue hearing its submissions for Upolu residents.  

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