A-G. clarifies assent laws

The Attorney-General has denied claims the head of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet (M.P.M.C.) can sign bills into law if they are not formally assented to by the Head of State. 

“The only authority permitted by the constitution to act in the Head of State’s absence is the Council of Deputies,” the Attorney-General, Savalenoa Mareva Betham Annandale, said in a statement issued late on Friday. 

“Article 23 provides that the Council of Deputies performs the functions of the Head of State in the absence of the Head of State. 

“One such function includes the function to assent an Act of Parliament as provided for under Article 60 of the Constitution. Therefore, if the Head of State is absent, then the Council of Deputies may assent [to] the Act, not the C.E.O. of [the] M.P.M.C.”

The statement comes after the Samoa Observer reported on a debate on the floor of Parliament on Wednesday.

Salega Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai, raised questions on Wednesday about the authority of M.P.M.C. chief Agafili Shem Leo to make a bill into law if the Head of State does not sign off on its passage.

Olo alleged that if a bill was not signed into law by the Head of State within a seven-day window then the M.P.M.C. Chief Executive Officer for, Agafili Shem Leo, could endorse it. 

“To me, it is not appropriate,” Olo said.

That drew a rebuke from the Prime Minister who said that it was a long existing part of Samoa’s legal system. 

“This was in fact embedded [in the constitution] by our forefathers and that is why I want to correct your wrong allegations.” 

Olo in turn disputed the Prime Minister’s claims and took to the floor to argue that the provisions had only recently been inserted into the constitution, in 2016. 

But the Attorney-General on Friday said that a provision of the constitution relating to the assent given to bills to become law had existed since the constitution was first authored, in 1960. 

Much of the Attorney-General’s statement also attacked an editorial in the Samoa Observer newspaper published in Thursday’s edition (“A bureaucrat with absolute power?”) as being factually inaccurate. 

Savalenoa’s complete response to the issue and the editorial can be read on today’s editorial and letters page. 

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