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Member’s Pre-Sitting Briefing

Member’s Pre-Sitting Briefing

A total of 25 Members of Parliament met on Friday, 7th August at 9:30am at the Maota Tofilau Eti Alesana for their scheduled Pre-Sitting Briefing on eight Government Bills proposed for introduction on Tuesday 11th August 2015.

1. Electoral Amendment Bill (No.3) 2015
The briefing was conducted by the Acting Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio with support of Senior Research Officer, Ah Kau Palale.
Objectives of the Bill, as detailed by Faimalomatumua, included providing for a period of at least 3 years of service (tautua) rendered by candidates intending to run in the upcoming elections. Another objective is an attempt to address inconsistencies in the Act; particularly in terms of the restriction on candidates who have had prior convictions liable to an imprisonment term. Thirdly, discretionary powers have been given to the Commissioner to re-photograph voters who have not updated their voter photos within 10 and 15 years. Another proposed amendment is to provide for the registration rights of descendants (including spouses) of those registered on the Vaimauga and Faleata Territorial Constituencies roll, on or before the 2011 General Elections. This is in spite of one not having kinship ties to those particular Territorial Constituencies.
Some of the member’s queries included the need for further clarification of the term ‘tautua’. Members wished to know whether the term encompassed acts of service such as monotaga, and service rendered for village, familial and religious purposes. Other members were thankful for the OEC’s ability to re-photograph eligible voters from 10 to 15 years. Another query was in regard to the eligibility of a candidates’ spouse and children to vote for family members despite their title being registered in another Constituency.

2. Consumer and Competition Bill 2015
The briefing was conducted by ACEO, Fepuleai Roger together with the assistance of the ACEOs Lealali Okesene with support from the Acting Chief Executive Officer Lisi Faletutulu and other senior officers of the Ministry for Commerce, Industry and Labour.
The Bill aims to promote competition in Samoan markets; establish fair standards for those engaged in trading; promote the interests of consumers; as well as establish a new Commission to safeguard and monitor the consumer and competition markets and dealings between businesses. The Bill stipulates prohibited acts against competitors and set rules to protect the consumer.
The majority of Members were not receptive of the Bill. According to Fepuleai Roger, the Bill permits wholesale operators to provide retail services. The majority of Members present perceived this as a breach of ‘fairness’, as wholesalers with retail shops will always have the upper-hand. There were also queries as to membership numbers for the Commission; it was suggested that the Ministry reconsider membership numbers. Members stated that the Ministry should revise the Bill before it is introduced in to the Assembly.

3. Foreign Investment Amendment Bill 2015
The briefing was conducted by ACEO Pulotu Chu-Ling, with support from other MCIL officers.
To embrace cultural diversity and developments in Samoa, the Bill seeks to promote the employment of foreigners (with residency or citizenship) as an employer deems appropriate. It will also provide a new source of income for the Ministry by incorporating annual renewal fees for registration by foreign investment companies.
The Bill proposes to fulfill two main objectives. The first is to repeal section 3(2) of the Principal Act, which removes the requirement for non-citizens to work in businesses listed on the Reserve List. The second objective is to add a new section, 8B which will require foreign investment certificates to be renewed annually.
Members’ queries were varied, ranging from the issue of the possibility of unemployment increasing as a result of the amendment; while others noted their acceptance of the discretionary power given to an employer to choose his or her employees.

4. Sentencing Bill 2015
The briefing was delivered by Masinalupe Tusipa Masinalupe, the Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration.
In the Criminal Procedure Act 1972 and the Crimes Act 2013, provisions of sentencing are visibly limited. However, in the proposed Bill, the emphasis is focused solely on the types of sentencing the Courts may utilize. Another purpose of the Bill is to provide clarification on these sentencing options. Masinalupe Tusipa Masinalupe stated that the overall aim of the Bill is to provide additional options for Judges to choose from during sentencing hearings.
Members were very receptive of the Bill. Many noted the importance of providing various options for sentencing to Judges.

5. Evidence Bill 2015
The briefing was delivered by Masinalupe Tusipa Masinalupe, CEO of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, MJCA.
The Bill will repeal and replace the Evidence Ordinance 1961. There are 5 objectives which the Bill seeks to achieve: to provide facts established by the application of logical rules; to promote fairness to parties and witnesses; to protect the rights of confidentiality and other important public interests; to avoid unjustifiable expenses and delays and enhance access to and understanding of the law of evidence.
Members did not comment on the Bill but did show their support for the Ministry in taking steps to modify the 1961 Ordinance.

6. Fisheries Bill 2015
The briefing was delivered by Joyce S. Ah Leong, ACEO for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, assisted by three principal officers and one senior officer for MAF.
The Fisheries Amendment Bill 2015 was introduced to regulate and control conservation, the management and development of fisheries. It will also provide for the licensing of foreign vessels in Samoan waters as well as prohibiting local fishers to illegally fish outside stipulated fishing zones. The Bill also aims to provide for proper standards of fish and fisheries products permitted for trading, and also provides for licensing of foreign fishing vessels within our shores.
Only two members commented on the bill; one queried whether ‘authorised officers’ on fishing vessels would be armed. Another query was whether the Ministry was monitoring foreign fishing vessels illegally fishing in Samoan waters.
The Ministry replied by stating that all authorized officers on fishing vessels are not permitted to carry firearms; their sole duty being to search and arrest on occasions where there has a commission of a crime on Samoan waters. However, the Ministry for Police will provide assistance if situations of such an extreme nature do arise. In response to the second comment, it was explained that currently the Ministry use electronic tracking devices to detect the presence of illegal fishing vessels in Samoan waters.

7. Land Titles Registration Amendment Bill 2015
The briefing was delivered by Josephine Stowers, ACEO – Legal for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
The Bill amends the Land Titles Registration Act 2008 to provide extra clarity as to customary lands which are not registered under the Land Register. Although customary lands may be maintained in the Registrar, they are not to be treated as the same as freehold and Government lands.
The Ministry responded to queries raised by Members although issues raised were not directly relevant to the Bill under discussion.

8. Lands, Survey and Environment Amendment Bill 2015
The briefing was delivered by Josephine Stowers, ACEO – Legal for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
The Bill amends the Lands, Survey and Environment Act 1989 (Principal Act) to permit other persons (specifically enforcement officers of the Land Transport Authority) to enforce the litter provisions under the Principal Act.
A few concerns were raised by Members in regards to the rationale behind the Bill. These included the ability of LTA officers to carry out the Ministry’s responsibilities particularly due to the fact that they currently assist the Ministry for Police in the control of traffic.
The presenter responded that, to ensure firm enforcement of the litter provision, it is practical to work together with LTA officers who will be designated as ‘authorized officers’. Stowers noted that a success depends on individuals working together, thus the intention to bring in LTA to assist in the enforcement of the litter provision in the Act.

Friday 7th August 2015

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