C.C.C.S. hears from lawyers on L.T.C. bills

The biggest church denomination in Samoa, the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.), has invited lawyers with opposing views on the L.T.C. bills to help the church formulate an opinion.

This was confirmed by the Secretary-General of the C.C.C.S., Reverend Vavatau Taufao, who declined to offer his opinion on the the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, the Lands and Titles Court Bill 2020, and the Judicature Bill 2020, which is before Parliament.

"I can not make a comment (on the issue)," he said. "If I offer my opinion, the name of the church will also be attached to it and it will make it look like that's the church's stance on the matter."

But Rev. Vavatau said the Church has appointed a sub-committee to consult with legal experts on the impact of the proposed changes.

"We did bring in two lawyers," Reverend Vavatau said.

"One was from the Samoa Law Reform Commission, who was there when the bills were designed and drafted. That lawyer offered a positive description of the three bills. 

"The other lawyer was from the Samoa Law Society who raised concerns on the changes proposed by the three bills. We brought two lawyers with the hope that we can reach and come up with a balanced decision."

Rev. Vavatau would not reveal the identity of the lawyers.

He also said the Church has not made a decision on whether they will present a submission before the Special Parliament Committee tasked to deal with public consultations on the matter.

Chaired by veteran Member of Parliament, Gatoloaifaana Amataga Gidlow, the Committee was granted an extension by Parliament this week to complete their work.

As for the decision to appear before a Special Parliamentary Committee, Rev. Vavatau said he does not know when a decision will be made.

"The decision is up to the Committee," he said.  

"Because the presentation (by the two lawyers) was done before a sub-committee and not the whole committee, but a sub-committee can not make a decision. Nothing has been confirmed."

Last month, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [L.D.S.] presented a submission to the Parliamentary Committee. 

The church's representatives did express concerns about the effects of the proposed laws on fundamental human rights in Samoa. 

Spokesperson and Area Seventy Elder, Sapele Faalogo, told the Samoa Observer that their submission contained a concern that fundamental rights would be affected by the proposed changes, especially freedom of religion.

When the Secretary for C.C.C.S. was asked to comment on the effects of the proposed changes and on freedom of religion, Reverend Vavatau flatly declined to offer his opinion. 

"I did not know that the L.D.S. church already made a submission and I don't know how they were granted the opportunity to make a submission to the Committee, I did not look into that."

The Parliamentary Committee has received submissions from all the villages in Savai'i. They have also heard submissions from most of the villages in Upolu. 

In an interview with the Samoa Observer last week, the Spokesperson for the Parliamentary Committee, Fuimaono Te'o Samuelu confirmed that the bills have received strong support for the overhaul from villages in Upolu.   

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