L.T.C. changes not undermining law: Minister
Minister Tialavea Tionisio Hunt has dismissed criticisms by former Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa that bills overhauling the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) will weaken the rule of law.
“I speak as a High Chief of my family and a Chief that sits within the village council, the rule of law in my view should be applied to everyone equally. However that is not the case,” Tialavea said.
“It’s only the rights of individuals that are recognized by our Constitution, is that the rule of law?
“What about the Chiefs that are governing the villages, what about our rights.”
Tialavea is the Paramount Chief of Faleapuna.
He was responding to comments made by Fiame, who on Friday resigned both as Deputy Prime Minister and from the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.).
Together the bills will create an entirely autonomous L.T.C., which will run in parallel to the courts as an independent judicial structure, including its own High Court and Court of Final Appeal and Review.
It has been described as a fourth branch of Government.
The Minister referenced a brochure outlining the overview of the three bills and their changes as being motivated primarily to “reflect Samoa in its Constitution and its laws”.
Secondly, the bills will “include the Land and Titles Court in the Constitution of Samoa, the Court that deals with Samoan culture and heritage provided for matters in the Land and Titles Court.”
According to Tialavea, the bills will make sure Samoan culture is embedded in the constitution.
He said the constitution recognises the rights of an individual over the village council.
“And that is why these bills are important,” he said.
“But to say these bills are sliding away from the rule of law is wrong. I am not a lawyer or a judge.
“I am a High Chief of my family and our rights should also be recognised.”
He added the rule of law was not being applied equally, which only heightened the importance of the bills.
The Minister said that, without High Chiefs in villages, Samoa would be worse off than other countries in the Pacific.
“The village councils set rules that villagers live by: there is peace and tranquility,” he said.
The Minister also noted the bills are not yet approved and there is always room to amend the proposed measures once they come before Parliament again.
The bills are currently at the second reading stage of the Parliamentary process.
A Special Parliamentary Committee has been tasked with consulting members of the public about their views on the proposed legislation.