6 May 2020

Samoa PM hits out at NZ Law Society

11:10 am on 6 May 2020

Samoa's Prime Minister has responded to the New Zealand Law Society's statement that it held serious concerns about constitutional reforms being proposed in the country.

Samoa PM, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

Samoa PM, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi Photo: RNZ Pacific / Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

The society's president , Tiana Epati, expressed her misgivings about the proposals with her group standing alongside their Samoan counterparts in opposition to them.

However Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said there was no place for the "President of an overseas Law Society" to lecture or interfere with the country's democratic processes.

"Samoa's Government is trying to create a Specialist Court of Appeal for its own cultural Lands and Titles to be legally acknowledged and preserved," the prime minister said.

"It is a matter now at Select Committee for public consultation, and it is a matter for Samoa.

"In short, it is none of your overseas presidential business."

Tuilaepa wished Ms Epati "all the best" on concentrating on the needs of her members and said his government would concentrate on looking after Samoa.

He ended his statement by reminding both law societies that Samoa had been independent since 1962.

Earlier the New Zealand Law Society said it was providing its resources to the Samoa Law Society in order to prepare a submission opposing the three controversial bills before parliament.

The chair of the New Zealand society's Rule of Law Committee, Austin Forbes, QC, said their Samoan counterparts had alerted them to judicial and Constitutional concerns raised by prominent judges in the country.

The New Zealand society would assist in addressing them.

He said members of his committee were available.

"We would look for an outcome that is seen as satisfactory as far as all those involved in Samoa. We certainly would not be dictating in any shape or form what the outcome should be, this is a matter for a sovereign country to determine and if we can assist, we will," he said.

The New Zealand Law Society had initially acknowledged Samoa was an independent sovereign country with its own legal system, customs and fa'a Samoa.

However President Tiana Epati, who is Samoan herself, said whatever policy aims needed to be achieved, it was hard to understand how such changes could be justified without the explicit support of a large majority of the people of Samoa through proper consultation.

Tiana Epati has been elected as the first ever New Zealand Law Society president of Pacific Island descent.

NZ Law Society President, Tiana Epati Photo: NZ Law Society

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