Lepā unites behind L.T.C. overhaul
The district of Lepā has united to embrace three bills currently before Parliament proposing to restructure the judiciary and the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.).
The hearing was convened at the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa at Lepā on Tuesday.
Initially, time was allocated for the five different villages within the Lepā district. But in a display of unity, the whole district, including the matai (chiefs), untitled men, and women assembled to make their submission.
The district collectively presented their written submission before a Special Parliamentary Committee tasked with collecting views on the proposed legislation before its further consideration by the Parliament.
A paramount chief from the district, who was chosen as its spokesperson, Auelua Samuelu Enari, confirmed their stance to the Samoa Observer.
"Fatialofa, Auelua ma o la Tapa'au and the whole district decided to back the changes behind the three bills," Auelua articulated.
"We don't know about the other villages and districts [in Samoa], but the whole district [of Lepā] decided that we [would] come together as a district to hand in our submission.
"I was also given the honor to present our submission before the Parliamentary Committee.
"We handed in a written submission, and overall, in terms of [policies], we have decided to support the changes behind the three bills."
Auelua said the district’s decision was the result of careful consideration and study of the bills’ contents.
"Our decision to support the changes was formulated after fair discussions and explanations of the changes.
"So we have a fair understanding of the bills.
"We did not support it because of what other people and villages were saying, or because the leader of the government is from our district."
The proposed change which indicates a recognition of communal rights referring to village councils (Ali'i and Faipule) within Samoa's Constitution is one of their biggest points of support, said Auelua.
"For example, the effort in trying to include communal rights referring to village councils to reflect in the Constitution so there is a balance with individual rights,” Auelua said.
"Because at the moment, we only recognised individual rights in our Constitution.
"Therefore, we solemnly support the inclusion of Communal Rights as provided for within the Bill because it provides solid legal grounds for the Village Fono Act within the Constitution.
"The only thing that is highlighted in the Constitution is found in the Preamble but not in the Constitution.
"And from what we read from the records of the Constitutional Convention from 1960-1962, there are records that our forefathers questioned the inclusion of Ali'i and Faipule within our Constitution.
"But because we needed to comply with the terms and conditions so we can become independent. Therefore, it was left as it was."
The district had some recommendations to better the legislations but only on "administrative matters" when the bills are passed and become laws, added Auelua.
The villages of Aufaga, Saleapaga, Si'upapa, Lepa, Vaigalo, and Lealatele make up the district of Lepā.
The Constitution Amendment Bill 2020; Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020 is to re-establish the autonomy of the Land and Titles Court are currently at the second reading stage of the Parliamentary process.
Consultations for Upolu will continue this week.