SUNGO wants a Land and Titles Court President Free of Criminal Conviction

Lagi Keresoma

, Latest, Law, Local

SUNGO President Peseta Lua Nafo’i (4 from right) with members of the Executive after their presentation to the Special Parliamentary Committee this week.

 

By Lagi Keresoma

 

APIA, SAMOA – 15 MAY 2020: The Samoa Umbrella of Non-Government Organisations (SUNGO) has told the Special Parliamentary Committee hearing public views and submissions on three controversial Bills, to enforce the appointment of someone free of any convictions as President of the Land and Title Court.

SUNGO, that represents over 100 NGOs as members, made their submission to the Committee this week.

Led by President Peseta Lua Nafo’i, SUNGO relayed their concerns that the integrity of the office of the President of the Land and Titles Court has been tarnished and proper appointment criteria need be laid down in the Bill.

“We recommend that criteria should be in place to guide the appointment of a person with good standing and no criminal convictions,” said SUNGO referring to the current President who was convicted of assault by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal but his appointment was restored by Parliament.

SUNGO recommends the appointment of a member of the National Council of Churches (NCC) as part of the Council that appoints the President to ensure the independence of the Council from political influence.

Recommendations:

SUNGO wanted to understand from the Committee why Government is trying to take control of families’ heritage through legislating the number of holders of a main family title – the Sa’o.

“If a family has 10 suli fa’avae that the title needs to be bestowed upon but can’t because of the requirements under the new Bill, will only create differences and problems within families,” according to SUNGO.

This will also mean more court cases for families and more work for the Court.

The worst according to SUNGO is that the Court will appoint a family Sa’o to be registered.

SUNGO is also against forcing of people to attend a title bestowal, and that it is up to families and villages to be present or not or to accept the title on behalf of someone (tapa le ipu).

SUNGO also made a strong stand against families asking permission from the Court Registrar to bestow a title; that the 3 months publication in the Savali newspaper remain and that lawyers not be involved in Lands and Titles matters as the Bills proposes. The village mayor as the Government representative must be present as his duty to register the new title holder(s).

Overall concerns:

  • Absence of the church voice in the Bills given the recognition in the constitution of Samoa’s foundation on God, Cultural and Christianity values;
  • The recommendations of the 2016 Parliamentary Committee report not addressed in the Bills;
  • Lack of time for public consultation;
  • Contest the Prime Ministers view that what the Members of Parliament say in Parliament represents the views of the district.