Govt. urged to review "defective" L.T.C. bills

The leader of the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, La'auli Leuatea Schmidt, is hoping that the three bills proposing monumental changes to Samoa's judiciary and the Constitution, will not be tabled for the third reading and passed in this Parliamentary sitting.

Describing the Judicature Bill 2020, Lands and Titles Bill 2020, and the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020 as "defective" and "unconstitutional", La'auli has appealed to the Government to shelve the legislations to allow them to be reviewed.

 "I hope and pray they will not go ahead and pass those legislations," La'auli said.

A Special Parliamentary Committee was given the task to solicit the public's opinion regarding the changes proposed by the three pieces of legislation starting from March to October this year. 

Chaired by the Member of Parliament for Fa’asaleleaga No. 1, Gatoloaifa’ana Amataga Gidlow, the Committee travelled to the villages of Upolu and Savai’i to gather their views on the bills. More than 200 submissions were made before the Committee including by individuals and some 187 villages across the islands.

The Committee was expected to table their report before Parliament when the House convened last week. This did not happen.

But La'auli said the Committee should not even table a report.

"They should take it back and review the whole thing because it is defective," said La'auli. 

"Think about this, there are districts that objected to these bills which means, the voters are against it, the Samoa Law Society made up of lawyers who understand the laws have raised serious concerns about these three bills. 

"The former Head of State of Samoa is also against it and some Judges in Samoa. Even Church Ministers and church denominations have voiced their stance against these bills. So it's sending out a message to the Government."

Although La'auli is hopeful the Government would consider withdrawing the bill, he is not optimistic that this would happen.

"It looks like they will not change their minds and are going to push through with the passing of these bills," he said. 

"That's what you call, abuse of power. They need to consider all the submissions made by the public and look at those things carefully. 

"They (government) need to see and feel from the perspective of those who are against these bills."

The former Cabinet Minister said the bills reflect everything that is wrong with the administration of Parliament and the Government in Samoa today. 

"As I said before, this is proof that our country is a one-party system, a one-party state, controlled by one man," he said. 

"The leader of the government is trying his best to overrule everything. We see now that he is trying to rule and control Parliament. 

"And if these bills are passed in Parliament, it shows that he (leader of the Executive) is trying to rule our Judiciary. There is no more independence with the three bodies. And it should not be passed."

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, confirmed in an interview with the Samoa Observer earlier this month, that the final report has not been finalised. 

“They have not finalised amendments and recommendations from the Committee.”

The Clerk could not confirm reports that the Government has decided to shelve the bills until after the 2021 General Election.

“There are some sections and amendments that need to be reconfirmed,” he added. 

The last sitting of Parliament for this year is scheduled for 15 December 2020.

The legislations, if passed by the Parliament, replaces the current Land and Titles Act 1981 that regulated the work of the Land and Titles Court. 

Furthermore, the proposed change is to support the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 which sets up a more autonomous Land and Titles Court framework. 

The three bills were tabled in the Parliament prior to declaring a state of emergency to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 in March this year.

The legal fraternity and members of the judiciary had expressed grave concerns over the bills claiming that they undermine the democratic institutions of the country and its three arms of government.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi said the bills will strengthen Samoan customs in law and address grievances from the public over the years with their customary issues brought before the Court. 

He assured that the proposed changes do not alienate customary lands which continue to be protected under the Constitution. 


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