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L.T.C. Bills discussed five years ago: P.M.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi says plans to introduce legislative changes to restructure the judiciary and create an autonomous Land and Titles Court [L.T.C.] were formulated five years ago.

Speaking on the Taimi ma le Palemia program on Sunday, Tuilaepa said it was the people who initially pushed for changes to the L.T.C. structure five years ago and three bills currently before the Parliament to effect those changes are in response to that request.

“We [Government] aren’t rushing things. It’s been five years since this was being prepared,” he said on the program.

“Remember, these conditions [to consult with residents] are under the law hence the decision by the Parliament in the beginning of this parliamentary term.

“A special consultation committee was [planned] to be formed to discuss and consult and inform the members of the public to collect their advice on how to improve the Land and Titles Court, especially to the bill of limiting the number of high chiefs to five.”

The three bills in question are: the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, the Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020.

A number of villages have asked the Special Parliamentary Committee, which is soliciting public views on the bills on both Upolu and Savai’i, for more time to study the legislations and their effects before they decide on what position to take.

However, the Prime Minister claimed on the program on Sunday that the bills were discussed and formulated five years ago so there was enough time for public consultation. 

“So it was never the Government’s doing. It’s that of the families and high chiefs due to the big controversial issues they faced during their court cases,” he added.

“It [the proposed changes] with the intention to control the over bestowing of high chief titles by the families. Even children are [now] being bestowed the high chief titles.”

One village that asked for more time to study the implications of the three bills is Saina, which said it wanted more time to discuss the proposed changes. 

The village's stance was confirmed by its mayor, Lauki Simona. 

"We only made a recommendation for the bills to be returned [to Government]," Lauaki said. "We humbly asked the Committee to review the bills and to give us time to discuss."

Lauaki said they believe the village did not have enough time to go through the bills in their entirety.

"The village has asked for some more time given to us so we can discuss the changes proposed,” Lauaki further reiterated. 

"We do not want to make a quick decision as a lot of people did not have a fair understanding and knowledge of what the bills are all about.

"Only then, can we make a final decision on whether we object or support the changes."

The Special Parliamentary Committee is chaired by veteran Parliamentarian, Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow.

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