More Ministry power over village affairs proposed

A new proposal empowering the Government to remove a village's mayor without first consulting with its council is among new bills before Parliament. 

The bills, relating to women's and village affairs and the role of the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development, have been proposed for lawmakers' consideration.

During the pre-Parliament sitting on Monday 14 December 2020, Ministry Chief Executive Officer, Afamasaga Faauiga Mulitalo, gave presentations on the Internal Affairs Amendment Bill 2020 and Ministry of Women Affairs Amendment Bill 2020.

Her presentations are recorded in a pre-sitting briefing summary published on the Parliament website.

The amendment to the Internal Affairs law would remove the Ministry’s duty to consult a village council before removing their village mayor,

Instead, the C.E.O. would only need to “inform” the village council of their nomination for a mayor (sui o le nuu) and to “provide for due process when dealing with the removal of a Sui o le Nuu under the act,” the briefing summary notes say.

This is “to practice the principle of natural justice, to ensure all sides are heard.”

In response to Members of Parliament saying they believe village matters should be left to the village, Afamasaga said the only reason the Ministry needs to get involved is if a Sui o le Nuu needs to be removed because they breached the Internal Affairs Act 1995.

Under the current act, the C.E.O. is obliged to “consult” with the village or villages responsible for nominating a pulenuu (referred to as pulenuu in the Act but as sui o le nuu by the C.E.O. in her discussions) before removing them from their post.

They can be removed because of disability, neglect of duty and or misconduct.

The briefing summary notes do not specify who spoke at the pre-Parliament sitting, but summarise the discussion like so:

“Members expressed similar concerns and views on the Bill; that village matters and decision making should be left solely to the Village Fono without any political influence and involvement from the Government. 

“Members expressed concerns with the removal of consultation with Village Fono, as this is part and parcel of Samoa’s customs and traditions to reach an agreement on any matter.”

The second bill Afamasaga presented is the Ministry of Women Affairs Amendment Bill 2020, which would recognise Village Women’s Committees under the Act and explain their role, responsibilities and how they should be made up.

Those Committees should also be registered under M.W.S.C.D “to avoid any doubt as to the nomination of a Sui Tamaitai o le Nuu under the Act.”

Under the amendments, it would be mandatory for women to be 60 per cent of the committee members, and that 60 per cent of the members should be present for decisions to be made (as a quorum). 

According to the notes, the amendment “aims to encourage inclusivity of women in decision making, and aims to promote gender equality through the composition of the Women’s Committee.”

Currently under the Ministry of Women Affairs Act 1990, only the position of women’s representative (Sui Tamaitai o le Nuu) is officially recognised. 

They are nominated in writing by members of the Village Women’s Committee to the Minister of Women’s Affairs, and if appointed hold their position for three years, but can be removed if they are unable to perform their duties or are neglectful,           or accused of misconduct.

By legally recognising the women’s committee in the Act, the Ministry hopes there will be no doubt about who exactly should be nominating the village’s female representative to the Government. 

The briefing summary notes do not specify who spoke at the pre-Parliament sitting, but summarise the discussion like so:

“Members queried whether the policy/regulation around the Women Representative be re-defined accordingly, as there are some villages with growing populace of female representatives with only one Women Representative ‘Sui Tamaitai’ thus requesting to have a Women Representative for each village  and sub-village to ensure the objective of the bill ‘to include all women’ is achieved.

“The C.E.O. responded that the only Women Reps’ who are recognised are those who come from a registered village with traditional salutation (nu’u mavae e iai se faalupega). These are the only villages who entitled to have 1 representative in the Women’s Committee.”

(Villages without a traditional salutation (faalupega) do not have recognised women’s representatives)

The full bills are not yet available for public viewing.

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