L.T.C. bills last straw: Sovereign Independent Samoa party
The Sovereign Independent Samoa party’s leader, Fesola'i Logomalieimatagi Tepa-Toloa, revealed that a proposed fundamental overhaul of the courts motivated her to seek a change of Government.
During the announcement of the party's new alliance with the Tautua Samoa Party and Samoa First Political Party on Thursday, Fesola'i was asked why she had made a u-turn on her previous pro-Government stance.
She answered that she was motivated by an opposition to a Government proposal to make the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) autonomous and independent of the Supreme Court.
The three bills altering the status of the L.T.C. and control over the appointment of Judges by the executive are the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020.
Fesola'i said that initially she was pro-Government, but it was not until she had registered her new political party that she started to look into the three bills.
"So I was just skimming through when [journalist] Autagavaia [Tipi Autagavaia] called and my thoughts expressed at the time were genuine," she said.
"I also had no intention to disregard this matter. But now that I have done sufficient research on the three bills, I have since [become] informed on the adverse effects these bills will have on our country.
"And this is when I decided to change which side this political party and I stand and it is to oppose the three bills."
In May this year, the Samoa Observer also reported that the S.I.S. did not share the objections of other parties who had been outspoken critics of the proposed changes to the judiciary following the bills’ passing into the second reading stage of the Parliamentary process.
But in August, Fesola'i spoke against the three bills before a Special Parliamentary Committee seeking public feedback on the changes when it visited her village: Faleasi'u.
Fesola'i recommended shelving the bills to the committee.
In October, Fesola'i challenged the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, to publicly debate plans to overhaul the Land and Titles Court, and calling the change as “repugnant” and “in breach” of the constitution.
"I did not talk to any lawyer about these three bills. I did my research and these bills connect to the bill I also opposed in 2008. The [Land Titles Registration Act 2008 (LTRA 2008)] is a law with immense authority," Fesola'i said on Thursday.
"And when I made this connection, it is then the Sovereign Independent Samoa chose to reject these three bills. These three bills and the [LTRA 2008] are part and parcel of the same thing."
This view is shared by the political party's new alliance partners, Tautua Samoa and S.F.P.P.
S.F.P.P. leader, Feagaimaalii Bruce To'omalatai voiced an appeal from the three joint parties to the Government to vote against the three bills, to shelve the proposal.
The parties have not entered into a formal alliance arrangement but have agreed to support each other to unseat candidates from the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) wherever they can.
Together, the three parties in the new alliance have 20 candidates running in next April’s election: 14 from Tautua, five from S.F.P.P. and one from S.I.S.