A.G. says new laws "Samoa's own form of democracy"

The Attorney General, Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale, has hailed the enactment of the Constitution Amendment Act 2020, Land and Titles Act 2020 and Judicature Act 2020 as a "historical moment" for Samoa.

"Overall, what is important to note is that these new Acts have confirmed for us that Samoa has its own form of democracy, defined by our Constitution, and influenced by Christianity and our Samoa customs and traditions," she said. "Our democracy does not subordinate our Samoa culture, it thrives because of it.”

The Attorney General makes the comments in a statement issued by her Office, a day after Parliament passed the three bills into law.

According to the Attorney General, the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 went through a two-third majority conscience vote. Fourty one Members of Parliament voted in favour while four opposed.

"Today marks a historical moment in time for Samoa, 58 years after that initial call by our forefathers, Samoa’s Parliament has finally heeded the call, by enacting the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020 (“3 Acts”) which will provide the much needed “transformational changes to its Land and Titles Court System”" the statement from the A.G. said. 

"As a historical snapshot surrounding the 3 Acts, the framers of our Constitution had the wisdom, foresight, patience and conviction, to leave the final decisions, on the Land and Titles Court to be determined in the future, when and once Samoa formed her own Parliament, after gaining Independence.

"Today, Samoa has arrived at the time, foretold by our forefathers."

The Attorney General's Office also provided what they call a "historical context of the reforms introduced by the three acts.

They pointed to a reference made during the Constitutional Convention discussions, in particular the introduction to Part IX of the Constitution as delivered by Professor Davidson (New Zealand Constitutional Expert Adviser). 

"The purpose of this Part IX is to give recognition and protection to Samoan customs in relation to customary land and matai titles," the Attorney General argues.

"The purpose of the 3 Acts is to give appropriate recognition to the status of the Land and Titles Court in the Constitution of Samoa, is therefore consistent with the intention of Part IX.

"Now, as an independent and sovereign country, and given the empowering provision in the Constitution for Parliament to do whatever it is necessary by way of legislation for the composition and functioning of the Land and Titles Court, it is now appropriate, and in keeping with the purpose of the Part IX of the Constitution, that Parliament legislates for a 3 tier Land and Titles Courts System –Land and Titles First Court, Land and Titles High Court and the Land and Titles Court of Appeal and Review –  to be recognised in the Constitution and to provide for Samoan customs rights in relation to customary land and matai titles as a Constitutional right."

The statement from the Attorney General also highlights the following points as to why the acts are critical:

a)    address the issues deferred by the Constitutional Convention Working Committee to be addressed by the Parliament of Samoa;

b)    respond to the concerns and issues raised by the members of the Parliament and stakeholders through the 2016 Commission of Inquiry on the Land and Titles Court; and

c)    take into account the concerns raised by the public and relevant stakeholders, in relation to the work of the Land and Titles Court.

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