Samoa’s Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Mulinu’u
By Staff Reporters
APIA, SAMOA – 16 APRIL 2020: A split Supreme Court system of Samoa into two – the Criminal and Civil Courts on one hand and the Courts of Samoan custom and tradition on the other, will inevitably cause inconsistencies in the law.
This is the opinion of the Committee put together by the Samoa Law Society to review the constitutional amendment Bills saying this “means confusion for the everyday person on what exactly is the law with two separate court systems.”
Both the Samoa Law Society and the Judiciary have raised serious concerns over the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 and the Land and Titles Bill 2020 that propose to split the Samoa Court system into two separate court systems. The Bills went through their second readings in Parliament last week and the Parliamentary Select Committee has yet to call for public views and submissions.
The changes seek to overturn the whole Land and Titles Act 1981 and “effectively splits Samoa’s judicial system into two,” in the words of the Samoan Judiciary in a letter to the Executive Director of the Samoa Law Reform Commission.
“These proposed amendments do not expressly provide ways of enforcing constitutional rights of the people in matters with Land and Titles Court given that ability is now taken away through these proposed changes to the law,” according to the Committee put together by the Samoa Law Society to review these Bills.
“Furthermore, a specialised court like the Lands & Titles Court specifically established with Samoan Customs and Usages, will not be equipped to deal with general legal issues that the Supreme Court of Samoa is used to dealing with.”
“And that makes sense because that is not what they were set up for. They are set up for a specific purpose and that is to deal with matai titles and customary land. The proposed change will result in Land & Titles Court including among the huge work load they already have to deal with, they will have to deal with legal issues that are normally dealt with in the Supreme Court. Among these issues would be the Constitutional rights, constitutional interpretation and disputes on right of way.”
The Samoa Law Society Committee is now reviewing these Bills and obtaining views from their members on these Bills, and make submissions to the Parliament Select Committee.
The Samoa Law Society Committee will also be raising public awareness through the media on the various different changes these proposed Bills will bring and the consequences to Samoa of these changes.
The Samoa Law Society Committee intends to commence live public awareness discussions with the media to outline the different changes proposed. The Samoa Law Society Committee is chaired by Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu.