President of the Lands and Titles Court, Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati has questioned the legitimacy of the Government’s latest action to “revoke” his appointment along with Judges of the LTC.
This is outlined in his letter to the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Matamua Vasati Pulufana dated 18 February, 2022 and obtained by Radio Polynesia.
In the same letter the President also set the record straight noting his “disagreement” to suspend the proceedings of the Lands and Titles Court.
However due to the lack of support staff, after being “instructed and warned” to refrain from associating with LTC activities “a clear indication that the work of the LTC is being sabotaged” he was forced to “adjourn matters” of the LTC.
The Justice Minister said the suspension of LTC operation is in line with the Parliament’s Commission of Inquiry to investigate the discrepancies in the three controversial bills including the Lands and Titles Act, as it has been uncovered there are four different sets of copies which makes it difficult to determine the correct Act.
In his letter last Friday to the Minister, the President pointed out two crucial matters which impact on the stability of Samoa through the incorrect application of the law to set up the operation of the LTC.
The Minister indicated the appointment of the President , Vice President and Judges of the LTC are revoked pursuant to section 67(6) of the Lands and Titles Act 2020; also the operation of LTC should be put on hold until the outcome of the inquiry of the Parliamentary Committee into the defects of the LTA 2020 and Constitution Amendment Act 2020 is completed.
According to Fepulea'i it is becoming apparent that Cabinet is encroaching on the separation of powers which is guaranteed under the Constitution which protects the judicial arm of Government, via the LTC Court to operate without fear or favor.
The President also questions the revocation of his appointment and Judges of the LTC, by the Minister, without due process.
“Informing me that my appointment is no longer valid indicates that my appointment along with others as Judges of the LTC have been revoked without a date process.
“Secondly, your request is asking for a direct breach of the law.
“To put on hold the implementation of the law is to encroach on the supremacy of Parliament to pass the law and encroach on the independence of the Judiciary via the Lands and Titles Court, to implement and interpret the law.”
The President says to put on hold the implementation of the law would be to delay justice guaranteed to the people of Samoa who already have matters before the Court.
Adding that the only way to implement the Minister’s request of deferring implementation of the LTA 2020 and CAA 2020 would be to table an amendment in Parliament to repeal these laws and re-enact new laws.
Regarding his position, the President said that during the preparation of the reform it was never the intention of the LTA 2020 that his appointment as President of LTC would be revoked at the commandment of the LTA 2020.
The intention of the law is an important factor interpreting law which clearly has not been considered by the Justice Ministers legal advisors.
He said the revocation of an appointment is required by “natural justice” to be done with due notice which is why the Minister will not find in any official records any intention to remove his appointment and other LTC judges at the commencement of the LTA 2020.
The President said he's “gravely concern” with the Ministers approach and what appears to be “misguided legal advice” and urged that she reconsider her position and allow the continuance of the implementation of the law as they are and the operations of the LTC until such time as Parliament passes laws to do otherwise.
The President pointed out the Minister seeking the Registrar to adjourn court cases is an “undertaking beyond the Registrar powers, clearly has not been considered by” the Minister’s legal advisors.
Fepulea'i further claims the Registrar and her staff has been “instructed and warned” to refrain from associating with LTC activities and this is a “clear indication that the work of the LTC is being sabotaged” and given the circumstances he has instructed the Acting Registrar to “adjourn matters scheduled for February and March 2022 to await the outcome of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry consideration of the differences of the LTA 2020.”
He also noted there is no assurance the parliamentary Inquiry will report back to Parliament at the next sitting scheduled in March yet there are urgent matters before the LTC that families will certainly feel the impact with their prolonged disputes before the court.
The President is adamant the Minister is being “misguided” by the legal advisors.