APIA, SAMOA – 19 AUGUST 2020: The special Parliamentary Committee conducting public consultations around the country on three controversial bills, have been given more time to complete its work and report back to parliament.
The Committee chairperson, Gatoloaifaana Alesana Gidlow moved the motion and passed by parliament yesterday morning.
The controversial bills include the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, the Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020.
The Bills have gone through their first and second readings in parliament and have had opposition from the Judiciary, the Samoan Law Society and various international legal and human rights institutions, expressing concerns on their implication to the country’s legal system and human rights if passed.
Given the wide implication of the bills, the consultation process had only been widely activated after many voices of opposition were raised. The Parliamentary Committees work had also been under scrutiny and criticised for influencing the public’s views especially the village councils who appeared before the committee.
The Samoa Law Society has made its submission and its main recommendation was that the bills be withdrawn.
The Samoa Law Society claimed that along with removing the Supreme Court oversight of Constitutional rights, the bills undermined the separation of powers (executive, legislative, and judicial) as entrenched in the Constitution and weaken judicial independence.
There is a lot of concern that given the two thirds majority held by the ruling Human Rights Protection Party, the constitutional amendments can easily pass before the current parliamentary term officially ends in January 2021.