Luatuanu'u and Leusoali'i uncertain on L.T.C. bills

The villages of Luatuanu'u and Leusoali'i have pleaded for more time to ponder bills proposing monumental changes to the nation's judicial system after meeting with a Parliamentary committee seeking feedback on the bills. 

Despite being scheduled to be heard at separate times, the two villages decided to enter the Parliamentary Special Committee consultation together on Monday morning. The committee is dedicated to soliciting public feedback on  a package of bills that would create an autonomous Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.).

Leusoali'i’s village mayor, Malauia Afa, said that now he and other village representatives have heard about the bills, the next step will be to relay the discussion to the villages.

"The coming Monday our village meeting has been called to discuss these big changes, this is the first time we have heard anything on the bills," he said.

"From there we will decide whether or not we agree to or reject the changes because just because I am the mayor does not mean everyone would agree with everything I say."

Malauia said he has personally requested from the Committee that after the village meeting in the coming week, whether or not they agree, they will have a written submission to the Special Parliamentary Committee.

From his own perspective, Malauia said he has his reservations about the bills saying there is no guarantee that the Legislative Assembly are sharing everything with the villages throughout the consultation process. 

"Personally, I have my doubts as I think of their Governmental arm, maybe they are only doing it to give them a good name or maybe they are genuine, but no one knows these things," he said.

"That's why I had asked for more time for my village to deliberate with our village."

Luatuanu'u mayor, Autu Lolesio echoed similar sentiments on Monday. He said because Luatuanu'u was only represented by five village chiefs including himself, they had decided to stay neutral on the matter taking into account that the village is not made up of only five people.

But what gave the representatives peace of mind was an assurance from the committee that one proposed clause of the legislation limiting the number of paramount chiefs in a family to five will be revoked.

"It seems, as the committee said this provision will be abolished and put the power back into families for them to decide, we thank them,” he said.  

“We appreciate it.”

Autu said the explanation of the bills by the Committee was clear and straightforward noting that since the bills’ introduction in March there have been several dissenting views on their effects. 

"I believe if this is how they are explaining it to everyone else, then it should be good," he said.

"Not only are they upholding the rights of individuals but also providing the chance for villages and [the] chiefs system to stand a chance in court.

"We advised them to look long and hard on which side Samoa is mostly falling into and take it as an answer for their programme, a side that preserves the peace of Samoa. 

"If the current system is where the peace is at, then we must hold on to it. But the most important thing is that we each understand these changes, discuss and deliberate so everyone can have a say."

The Special Committee is chaired by Member of Parliament for Fa'asaleleaga No. 2, Gatoaifaana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow.

The three bills in question are the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, the Lands and Titles Court Bill 2020, and the Judicature Bill 2020. Together, they will create an entirely autonomous Court which is not subject to review by the Supreme Court. 

The bills have already been introduced to Parliament and are at the second reading stage of the parliamentary process. But for the bills to reach their third reading stage, the Special Committee is required to consult with villages across the nation.

Parliament recently granted the committee a two-month extension until October to complete after it revealed it was only about halfway through consultations on Upolu. It had initially only been given authority to conduct consultations until Parliament’s rising this month. 

The public consultations by the Special Parliamentary Committee continue.

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