Attorney-General clarifies process for constitutional change

The Attorney General’s Office has explained the process by which changes are made to the nation’s constitution including when a referendum is required for amendments to be made. 

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, the A.G.’s office outlined the process for changing, removing any part of, or adding to the constitution - the supreme law of Samoa.

“A Bill that seeks to amend the Constitution must first satisfy the following legal requirements: a) a period of not less than 90 days must have elapsed between the 2nd reading and 3rd reading of the Bill [in Parliament and] b) at its 3rd reading in Parliament, the Bill is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total number of Members of Parliament,” the statement read.

“This process was followed in relation to the Constitution Amendment Act 2020 - which was passed by more than two-thirds majority of the Parliament of Samoa on 15 December 2020.”

Regarding when a referendum is required to amend the Constitution, the A.G.’s office says the only time a referendum is required for a bill changing the constitution, is when it seeks to amend, repeal or add to certain articles of the constitution.

Those include Article 102 (a ban on the alienation of customary land) and Article 109, which dictates the terms on which the constitution can be amended.  

“In these two instances only, a referendum must be carried out,” the statement read.

“A Bill will only pass into law if it is supported by two-thirds of the valid votes cast in the poll by voters.

“Where two-thirds of the voters support that Bill, the Speaker of the House can then sign a certificate proving the satisfaction of this legal requirement, and thereafter the Bill is referred to the Head of State for assent.”

The A.G.’s office says that a referendum was not required for the Constitution Amendment Act 2020 passed on 15 December as it did not relate to either article of the constitution. 

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