Olo, Faumina criticise M.P.s voting against constituents on L.T.C.

Independent Members of Parliament Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong have expressed dismay at their Parliamentary colleagues who voted to pass major legal reforms despite their constituents disapproving of the changes.

Three pieces of legislation fundamentally reforming the courts system were passed by Parliament last Tuesday. Only four M.P.s voted against the reform and 41 in favour.

The three pieces of legislation - the Judicature Bill 2020, Lands and Titles Court Bill 2020 and the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020 - will create an independent Land and Titles Court and amend the constitution.

The executive's power to shape the courts by hiring and firing Judges will also be strengthened.

"This has shown that the M.P.s' votes in Parliament, was [decided] in regards to the beliefs of the political party, disregarding their constituency's thoughts and opinions," Olo, the M.P. for Salega East, said.

The M.P. further questioned the findings of a Special Parliamentary Committee report that found 84 per cent of voters backed the laws.

"Was it through a plebiscite?," he asked of the calculation behind the statistic.

"Or did the Special Parliamentary Committee that went into the villages do a vote of those who attended? Because there was nothing like that.

"What is presented in Parliament should only be truthful and accurate.

"But let us rely on God to give us more ideas on how to possibly argue this as we are certain that this is not a good change for Samoa.

"Both for the children of Samoa now and those who are yet to be born."

Last week, Falealupo spokesperson and high chief Fuiono Tenina Crichton, criticised their Member of Parliament, Aeau Peniamina Le'avai, for voting in favour of the three bills, despite the village's stance.

The legislation had further been significantly amended from its original draft. 

Together, the three bills fundamentally alter the structure of the country’s judicial system and experts both in Samoa and abroad have said the bills stand to undermine democracy in Samoa if passed.  

Faumuina said it was clear the numbers of public support for the bills presented did not fully represent those of the majority who did not attend the Special Parliamentary Committee which was seeking public consultations.

"[For most villages] the women's committee did not attend, neither did the youth nor choirs and the rest of the village reverends and congregations. All these people have a say, not just village matai," said Faumuinaa, the M.P. for Urban West.

"Take Vaitele for example, there is one group of family, and they make the whole village council, who chose their current Member of Parliament, while the 90 per cent do not partake in village affairs. 

"This means the minority make the [decision]."

Faumuina criticised the way the L.T.C. Committee's report was handled saying it should have been shelved because it included more than a 100 amendments.

"During Parliament, they wanted one 'yes' to more than one provision?," he said.

"There are amendments that need to be looked into within those provisions, there were new things in there.

"You see how careless they are? And yet it is the constitution we are talking about; it shouldn't have been taken lightly."

Olo added that the way the three bills were passed in Parliament, reflected "dirty" processes.

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has repeatedly defended the bills in the face of criticism from legal experts and jurists.

Tuilaepa argued they correct a perceived imbalance between the rights of the individual and those of villages and collective organisations in the constitution. 

The Samoa Law Society (S.L.S.) blasted the Government's rationale as a “joke” that will risk Samoa’s international reputation as a democratic nation.

The chair of an S.L.S. committee tasked to investigate the bills, Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, told the Samoa Observer she believes the Government has displayed contempt for a system of Government that Samoa “once held dear.”

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