Judiciary Questions Lack of Consultation on Constitutional Amendments

“The Voice of the People – Does It Still Matter to Today’s Governance?” asks the Judiciary.  In their letter, the judiciary says “considering what is at stake, the Judges are at a loss to understand the “rush”.

 

APIA, SAMOA – 09 APRIL 2020: Samoa’s Judiciary has written to the Executive Director of the Law Reform Commission, expressing concerns for the lack of proper consultation on major Constitutional Amendment Bills that have already gone through the second reading in Parliament.

According to the letter from the Judiciary, the draft Bills were only given to the Judiciary about 6 days before it was tabled before Cabinet.

The Acting Chief Justice had written to request for more time to consider these developments and the request was declined.

The Judiciary’s concerns are similar to the concerns of the Samoa Law Society also voiced this week on the Bills:

  1. The Constitution Amendment Bill 2020
  2. The Judicature Bill 2020

Wholesale and fundamental changes
According to the Judiciary, “the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 proposes wholesale and fundamental changes to the Constitution of the country when such significant proposals would normally require serious and detailed consideration by a wide body of experts and people. This not only includes the Samoa Law Society, the Judiciary, and relevant stakeholders such as the Matais, Alii and Faipule and people of the country.”

“So does the voice of the people still matter in today’s Governance?” the Judiciary asked.

The Law Reform Commission Act says it does. It specifically requires the Law Reform Commission to consult and advise the public about their work. The Law Reform Commission’s website provides a process of consultation to be undertaken for changes like these Bills to take place. Was this done?

Samoa’s Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Mulinu’u.

The Judiciary in their letter appears to say that this consultation process did not take place. “The process has not been followed in preparing these Bills despite the magnitude and importance of the reform being undertaken.”

The Office of Attorney General has a drafting manual, a guideline for the Government in drafting legislations for Samoa. One of the guidelines is that the agency or the Government Ministry responsible for the law reform being proposed must ensure broad stakeholder consultation. Was this done?

“The Judiciary certainly says no.”

According to the letter from the Judiciary, the draft Bills were only given to the Judiciary about 6 days before it was tabled before Cabinet.

The Acting Chief Justice had written to request for more time to consider these developments and the request was declined. The judiciary in their letter says “considering what is at stake, the Judges are at a loss to understand the “rush”.

“The drafting manual also provides authorisation from the Prime Minister to give Bills before the AG’s certificate is issued to the Samoa Law Society for consultation. Was this done? The President of the Samoa Law Society says no!”

A Special Parliamentary Committee has yet to call for submissions and public views on the amendments and to report to Parliament before the final reading of the Bills.