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L.T.C. Bills report not finalised

Three pieces of legislation that propose to restructure the Judiciary will not be tabled in next week’s sitting of the Parliament.

Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, confirmed when contacted by the Samoa Observer that the Special Parliamentary Committee report into the Land and Titles Court [LTC] Bills is not on the agenda of the 17 November sitting.

The package of legislation is the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, the Land and Titles Court Bill 2020, and that Judicature Bill 2020 which have already passed the second reading. 

“It won’t be tabled [on 17th November],” said Tiatia, when asked about the Committee’s report following the conclusion of its public consultation.

“They have not finalised amendments and recommendations from the Committee.”

The Clerk could not confirm reports that the Government has decided to shelve the bills until after the 2021 General Election.

“There are some sections and amendments that need to be reconfirmed,” he added. 

The last sitting of the Parliament for this year before the festive season is scheduled for 15 December 2020.

Chaired by the Member of Parliament for Fa’asaleleaga no1, Gatoloaifa’ana Amataga Gidlow and the Committee travelled to the villages of Upolu and Savai’i to gather their views on the controversial legislation.

More than 200 submissions were made before the Committee including by individuals and some 187 villages across the islands.

According to the Clerk, the main concern raised by the villagers was limiting the number of matai sao to five and the lengthy process involved when delivering decisions.

The legislation, if passed by the Parliament, replaces the current Land and Titles Act 1981 that regulated the work of the Land and Titles Court. 

Furthermore, the proposed change is to support the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 which sets up a more autonomous Land and Titles Court framework. 

The three bills were tabled in the Parliament prior to declaring a state of emergency to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 in March this year.

The legal fraternity and members of the judiciary had expressed grave concerns over the bills claiming that they undermine the democratic institutions of the country and its three arms of government.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi said the bills will strengthen Samoan customs in law and address grievances from the public over the years with their customary issues brought before the Court. 

He assured that the proposed changes do not alienate customary lands which continue to be protected under the Constitution. 

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