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Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has rebuked his Deputy, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, over her objection to three controversial bills to make the Land and Titles Court autonomous.
Speaking on his 2AP programme on Thursday, Tuilaepa expressed his disapproval of her comments and position on the contentious Government-sponsored legislation, and said he will take her opposition as a signal of her exit from the ruling Human Rights Protection Party [HRPP].
“I don’t mind if [she] doesn’t approve,” he said.
“That is her decision which means she is no longer with this party.”
Tuilaepa then criticised Fiame for attending the hearing of the Special Parliamentary Committee when her constituency made its submission.
He claimed that it would have been right for Fiame to give her constituency the opportunity to express their views freely without influence.
“The opportunity should be given to the constituents to express their views freely,” he added.
“If you remember these people are leaders of the constituency, they are well educated and grew up from the land and have been involved with village matters and are following footsteps of their parents.
“The report I received [with Lepa’s submission] is they supported and were given the opportunity to ask questions and had made recommendations..”
Furthermore, Tuilaepa said this was one of the reasons why he did not participate in his constituency’s submission earlier this week, when they appeared before the Committee.
Fiame, who is also the Member of Parliament for Lotofaga, said the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020 were not well prepared.
She said there are “too many gaps and many uncertainties which may cause some conflicts” arising from the proposed changes in the bills that are on its second reading.
But in response to his Deputy, Tuilaepa hit back and accused Fiame of sitting on issues, which were raised about the judiciary in the previous parliamentary term, when she was appointed the Minister of Justice.
He made reference to concerns raised by the public on delay judgments amongst other issues which were brought before a Commission of Inquiry in 2016.
Tuilaepa said the issues in the judiciary are not new and have been around since 2002 to 2010 before the proposed amendments.
“That is the reason why I appointed her as the Minister of Justice from 2010 to 2015 to look for remedies on these issues,” he said.
“It is now 2016 and these issues raised by Fiame continue to pile up and it’s now being addressed in these legislations during the Minister of Justice Faaolesa’s tenure.
“These are big things done by Faaolesa with the amendments to address issues mentioned by Fiame.”
Tuilaepa then praised his Minister of Justice for moving to recognise the rights of village councils, which he said was not done before.
Faaolesa, who is also the Minister of Electoral Office, was also acknowledged by the Prime Minister for reforms to redefine electoral boundaries, which Tuilaepa said should’ve been done in the past.
“These are big matters that are now being addressed and will be included in the Constitution just like what was in our preamble that says Samoa is founded on God,” he said.
“It will go down in history that Faaolesa had contributed immensely in it and we will remember Faaolesa during his tenure for addressing what wasn’t being addressed before.”
Tuilaepa also said the Government cannot force people to understand something that they do not want to understand.
He added that there are still opportunities to amend the proposed legislation and that can be done through the Special Parliamentary Committee and its public consultations on the three bills.
Meanwhile, Fiame who attended the consultation with her constituency on Wednesday, reaffirmed that she would vote against the bills if her constituency’s concerns are not addressed.
“In our view and in my view as a Member of Parliament, the bills have not been well prepared," she said.
"There are too many gaps, and many uncertainties which may cause some conflicts."
Fiame said the amount of authority bestowed by the bills to the proposed independent Land and Titles Court is concerning.
She said there needs to be guidelines to govern the work of the judges and staff of the Land and Titles Court.
Failure to implement guidelines to regulate the work of the judicial staff in the Land and Titles Court will allow people to play up, she added.
The Deputy PM said she has also used the consultation to express her views, separate from that of her constituency about the three bills.
She said she was not present during the Cabinet meeting where the memorandum on the three bills was tabled.
"I am now using my one chance to express my opinion as a Member of Parliament before the Committee as the Prime Minister had sternly advised [members of the public]," Fiame said.
"And as I have said to my constituency and to the Committee, if these concerns are not addressed and no amendments are done, I cannot accept [the bills].”
She also expressed her views about claims that the common law used in the High Courts is palagi law.
"It's not America or New Zealand's Court, it's Samoa's," she said.
"What worries me is that this will create division among the people of Samoa, which is something we should be careful about.
“It's not a good thing. This thing where it is said that one is a palagi Court and the other is a Samoan Court is not right.
“All Samoans go before the High Court and other Courts and they also go to the Land and Titles Court.
“Those presiding the Courts are also Samoans…”
She added that having two judicial systems will give rise to internal conflicts within the judiciary and it will not be good for the Government and its people.
SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS
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