Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Natural Resources and Environment has today resigned from Cabinet.
Fiame confirms that she has resigned from Cabinet however she remains as a Member of Parliament. Fiame’s written resignation was addressed to the Head of State, copying the Prime Minister.
This week, Fiame led her constituency of Lotofaga to Parliamentary Committee consultations over three controversial Bills that experts say will destabilise the judicial process in Samoa if passed in Parliament.
Speaking publicly this week on the issues arising from the proposed amendments, Fiame told Samoa Global News that she would not support the Bills in Parliament.
“As they are currently drafted, I will not be voting to support these changes”.
Fiame says the consultations have come too late in the process, with the Bills having already passed their second reading in Parliament.
“The question of accepting or rejecting the legislative amendments is not one for villages. That is the mandate of Parliament. The question is, are Parliamentarians hearing the voice of the people on the issues?”
Fiame says it is not just the voices of villages, but also the voices and opinions of experts who have come out to highlight grave concerns with government’s proposed changes.
“Its the legal profession, the Judiciary and others who have submitted informed positions on the negative impacts of these proposed amendments”, she said.
Fiame says one concern is the discretionary unfetted power being proposed for the Lands and Titles Court.
“If we go back to the 2016 Public Inquiry and report, the capacity of the LTC was one of the key issues raised;
“Without proper processes, definitions of power, rules and boundaries, there is unfetted power given to the LTC, which means decisions will be determined solely by the person sitting”;
“O le pule faitalia o le fili o le pule faale tulafono”.
Positions have been raised by several organisarions including the Samoa Law Society, who said the Bills were defective and unsuitable to be formally distributed, let alone tabled in Parliament.
In a formal Position Paper, the Society says that if passed, the three Bills “will collectively represent the most drastic and incompetent attack on the stability of the justice system and the operation of the Rule of Law ever seen in Samoa since independence”.
The Office of the Ombudsman also issued a position paper to state that the National Human Rights Institute of Samoa did not support drastic amendments of the Constitution proposed by the Bills.
“It is not clear to us how the .. highly desirable objectives are achieved in any substantive way by the Bills before the Committee;
“There is no such match up as an ‘individual rights versus communal rights’ contest”.
Wrote Maiava, “Individual Rights is intrinsic to society. Each member of society, made in the image of God, possesses these rights in equal measure. It is truism therefore to say that “if you protect the individual you protect society” .
The Samoa Judiciary including all Justices of the Supreme Court had also writte to the Samoa Law Reform Commissioner reminding her that “consultation is the most important part of the law reform process”.
Samoa’s Judiciary says the amendments essentially splits the judicial system into two, by establishing the Lands and Titles Court as a fourth pillar of Samoa’s government structure.
“Considering what is at stake, the Judges are at a loss to understand the rush. If this process takes years, then so it should for these changes are not minor and are to the Constitution, the Supreme Law of Samoa adopted by the founding fathers of this Nation upon Independence.”
In his weekly programme with the 2AP, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi last night had said that Cabinet members who do not uphold government positions are “no longer members of the government”.
Fiame Naomi Mataafa first entered Parliament in 1985 and is the Member of Parliament from the Lotofaga Constituency on Upolu’s South Coast.
A pioneer of Women in Leadership, Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa was the first ever female on Samoa’s Cabinet and first female Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa.
Fiame first joined Cabinet in 1991 as Minister of Education, a portfolio she held for 15 years. She has also served as the Minister of Women, Community and Social Development and Minister of Justice and Courts Administration.
Fiame’s resignation from Cabinet comes 7 months away from Samoa”s next general elections, set for 9 April 2021.