Samoa Chief Justice: Concern Over Commission Of Inquiry Into Lands & Titles Court

Potential for political interference compromising the independence of the judiciary

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, July 28, 2016) – The Chief Justice Patū Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu has written to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoli’ai Sailele Malielegaoi about the Commission of Inquiry currently investigating the performance and other activities of the Lands and Titles Court.

The letter was confirmed by Tuilaepa during his weekly radio programme yesterday although he did not reveal the contents of the letter.

“I have already responded to him (Patū) and there are still more people testifying before the Commission,” said Tuilaepa.

Public views had been expressed over possible political interference over the independence of the judiciary with having a parliamentary commission investigate the performance of the Lands and Titles Court.

In a recent interview, the Prime Minister explained why there was a need to investigate the activities at the Lands and Titles Court.

Tuilaepa said then, that he as Prime Minister and Cabinet had no power or authority over the judiciary. However, a number of complaints against some of decisions made by the Lands and Titles has affected and angered many families.

He said he had written several letters to the Court to look into the complaints without interfering in their decisions, but at the same time, consulted the Constitution if there was any provision that could be used to assist the people.

The alternative he came up with was to establish a Parliamentary Committee to look into the matter, hence the current Commission of Inquiry.

However the Commission has been hailed by many as long overdue given the backlog of cases as well as appeals that go back over twenty years.

Tuilaepa hopes the Commission’s report would be ready and tabled in the next meeting of Parliament in a month’s time.

Copyright © 2016 Talamua. All Rights Reserved

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