Parliament convenes, L.T.C. Bills Committee granted extension

A Special Parliamentary Committee tasked with public consultations on proposed amendments to restructure the judiciary system has been granted more time to complete its work.

The extension was granted in Parliament on Tuesday morning, when the Legislative Assembly convened for their August session.

The Committee Chair and Member of Parliament for Fa'asaleleaga No. 2, Gatoaifaana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow, had moved a motion for the extension, noting that they have yet meet with at least ten districts to seek their feedback on the bills.

Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi, put the motion to a vote and it was approved. 

The bills in question are the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020. They seek to create an autonomous Court which is not subject to review by the Supreme Court, among other monumental changes they are proposing to the judiciary.  

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei said the debate about the pros and cons of the bills has galvanised the country. In terms of public interest, aside from the road switch in 2009 where opinions were also divided, the L.T.C. bills would be up there. Which is good the country, Tiatia said.

“It’s good to have this much interest from the public because there are a lot of legislations that there are hardly any interest from the public,” he said during an interview with the Samoa Observer. 

“But it’s a good sign that the Committee is going out to the villages and are gathering the views of all constituencies. 

“This is especially important that we are now on the second reading stage of the bills."

Considering that the bills have not reached other constituencies, Tiatia said the Chairperson of the Committee will move a motion in Parliament on Tuesday when it reconvenes for extension of time. 

 “The initial three months [for consultation] expires in this sitting and the Chairperson will seek the Legislative Assembly’s approval for more time,” he said. 

“We are looking at the next sitting in October to complete the consultation and compile report.” 

The Committee has wrapped up its work in Savaii and is halfway through the island of Upolu. 

According to Tiatia it is likely that the visit to the remaining constituencies will commence next week with individual submissions commencing after Parliament session this week. 

The Committee has already heard evidence from more than 15 constituencies in Upolu. 

The remaining constituencies include Falealili, Aleipata, Lepa and Lotofaga, Anoama’a East and West, Vaa o Fonoti, and Siumu. 

“Once consultation is done the Committee will have to compile report and hopefully can have it tabled in October,” said the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. 

“It all depends on the recommendations for the amendments…”

 The three bills have received a lot of criticisms from the legal fraternity and international agencies that warned the Government against undermining the independence of three arms of power. 

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