Head of State's role in Constitution: Agafili

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo, says the responsibilities of the Head of State are clearly spelt out in the Constitution.

He was responding to calls by members of the Samoa Solidarity International Group (S.S.G.) for His Highness, Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II not to give assent to a suit of legislation, which the Parliament passed into law early this month to restructure the judiciary.

The Head of State’s assent of the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) Bills would effectively make them law.

Agafili, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer, said: “The Head of State’s responsibilities are clearly spelled out in the Constitution. 

“Those legal requirements are strictly observed.”

S.S.I.G. members last week did a vehicle convoy and led a peaceful protest outside the residence of the Head of State in Vailele.

They said they remained concerned about the implications of the new laws after the Parliament passed the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020 with more than two-thirds majority.

Agafili did not want to comment on the appeal from the S.S.I.G. members nor did he confirm whether the Head of State has already assented the new laws.

The Samoa Observer approached the Secretary to the Head of State for comment, in relation to the matter, who then referred this newspaper to Agafili. 

In their plea to the Head of State to reconsider sealing the law with his signature, the S.S.I.G. representative, Unasa Iuni Sapolu said they are exercising their freedom of expression.

Unasa claims that the three legislations are the “last nails to the final added to the LTRA08” – which is a direct reference to the Land Titles Registration Act 2008 – alleging that it will dispossess Samoans of their lands.

Despite the Government insisting that the laws will not affect customary lands, Unasa said she disagrees.

She said if the rights of the people, who are unhappy with the decisions of the L.T.C. to seek judicial review in the Supreme Court, are taken away then it is an erosion of human rights.

Unasa added that matters in the L.T.C. deal with matai titles and customary lands and if people cannot seek remedy in the Supreme Court that interprets the Constitution then their rights to land are lost.

In addition to that the S.S.I.G. maintains the new laws will affect customary lands, claiming the law does not translate the Government’s position that it doesn’t.

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