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Samoa's Ombudsman voices opposition to divisive bills

May 18, 2020 11:39 am
Samoa's Ombudsman, Maiava Iulai Toma. [Source: RNZ]

Samoa’s Ombudsman, long serving public servant Maiava Iulai Toma, has voiced his office’s opposition to proposed Constitutional changes aimed at an overhaul of the Judiciary.

Samoa Observer reports Maiava, who is also the head of the National Human Rights Institution in Samoa (NHRI), made his views known in a submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee sitting to review the Bills tabled last month.

“NHRI Samoa does not support drastic amendment of the Constitution. It does not consider this necessary to remedy the problems experienced in the past,” said the submission.

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“NHRI Samoa suggests instead, Parliamentary consideration of legislation under Article 11(2) of the Constitution.”

The office of the Ombudsman suggests that government should be addressing the issue of freedom of religion.

The submission said the root of unrest between the village fono and the Supreme Court, on which the suite of three bills are based, is decades of Land and Titles Court decisions being overturned on matters of religious freedom.

Maiava recommends that instead of the three bills which would have “injurious consequences” on fundamental freedoms, the country should take a closer look at one specific article of the Constitution for legislation and that is religious freedom.

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