Protesting group to take concerns to United Nations

The Samoa Solidarity International Group will be raising its concern about new laws to restructure the judiciary, and change Samoa's Constitution, with the United Nations. 

This was confirmed by S.S.I.G. representative and lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, who also assured the group will not stop until they have taken every avenue available to voice their concerns.

Last week, the S.S.I.G. staged a peaceful protest to express their opposition to the newly passed laws outside the Head of State’s residence at Vailele. 

The message from the group was for the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Sualauvi Va’aletoa II, not to assent the three acts into law with his signature. 

The package of legislation include the Constitution Amendment Act 2020, Land and Titles Court Act 2020 and Judicature Act 2020 that got a more than two-third vote in parliament. 

But Unasa said they will not stop.

She revealed that their next step is the United Nations, where they will raise the grievances they have against the new laws. 

“We are going to the U.N. in March next year and the government will report to U.N. on what is happening here,” she said. 

“We will, individually have our voice in U.N. where a lot of funding comes from [for Samoa] and we are preparing for that...”

Unasa added that she is glad that finally what is happening in the country is being seen and acknowledged by overseas countries. 

She is referring to comments made by an Australian senator regarding the extradition of Talalelei Pauga accused of conspiring to murder the Prime Minister. 

Senator Janet Rice also spoke in their parliament about concerns from the UN Special Rapouter on the independence of judges in Samoa and the lack of separation of power. 

 One of the concerns from S.S.I.G. highlighted by Unasa is allegations that there was no referendum when parliament passed the three laws and alienation of customary lands. 

S.S.I.G. also maintains that the L.T.C. laws breaches articles in the Constitution by removing individual rights to seek remedy in the Supreme Court. 

When asked to explain, Unasa said L.T.C. matters involve matai titles and customary lands. 

She explained that when people cannot go to another Court when unhappy with L.T.C. decisions they are denied those rights that affect their customary lands. 

In response to fears about alienation of land, the Attorney General’s Office issued a statement to reassure the public that the 3 acts “do not in any way affect ownership and rights to customary land”. 

“. The 3 Acts will not result in the alienation of customary land to foreigners nor do the 3 Acts refer to the Land Titles Registration Act 2008,” a statement from the A.G. states. 

“To be clear, the 3 Acts have nothing to do with the LTRA 2008. 

“Customary land has always been, and will continue to be protected under the Constitution of the

Independent State of Samoa.”

The A.G. pointed out that customary land is safeguard under Constitution under Article 102 and can only be amended in accordance with the provisions of Article 109. 

The proviso in Article 109(1) prohibits any amendment to Article 102 unless the proposed amendment has been subject to a plebiscite or a poll of electors on the rolls of electoral constituencies. 

Furthermore, the proposed amendment has to be supported by at least two thirds of the valid votes cast in that plebiscite or poll of electors, the A.G. added. 

“There is absolutely nothing in the 3 Acts that amends Article 102 nor does it provide for the alienation of customary land. 

“Customary land in Samoa continues to remain protected under Article 102 and Article 109 of the Constitution.” 

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