Member’s Pre-Sitting Briefing Summary June 2018

A total of 29 Members of Parliament met at the Media Centre, Tuanaimato on Monday 18th June 2018 at 9.00am for their usual Member’s Briefing. The Governor of the Central Bank of Samoa and the Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture provided overviews of the objectives and contents of 2 bills to be tabled in the House on Tuesday 19th June. A summary of these presentations and the main issues raised by Members is provided.

(1) Money Laundering Prevention Amendment Bill 2018

Presenter: Maiava Atalina Ainuu-Enari
Governor – Central Bank of Samoa
Responsible Authority: Money Laundering Prevention Authority

The Governor provided a detailed presentation on the background of the Money Laundering Prevention Amendment Bill 2018; asserting that initially the Bill amends the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2007 to implement Samoa’s obligations and adherence to anti-money laundering and to counter terrorist financing international standards under Samoa’s Mutual Evaluation Report 2015. Furthermore Maiava stated that the Bill is to ensure Samoa’s preparedness for the Asia Pacific Group (APG) assessment in 2018, which evaluates the technical compliance of Samoa to international standards.

The following issues and concerns were raised by Members:
• The need for appropriate scanners used by border officers to easily detect undeclared money stored in passenger luggage brought into the country;
• Queried the transferal of powers to issue ‘stop orders’ from the Courts to the Governor;
• The rationale for prohibiting crypto-currency in Samoa;
• High lending interests rates by banks;
• The hidden effects of foreign investment, whether Samoa was reaping the full benefits of foreign investors;
• The capacity of the Act to capture and detect fraudulent/money laundering dealings within Samoa;
• The capacity of enforcement agencies to effectively carry out the functions and provisions of the Money Laundering Prevention Act.

Members acknowledged the amendment Bill noting its importance to ensuring the security of Samoa as a nation from money launderers. Generally, Members also emphasised the importance of having alongside stringent legislation, well trained and equipped enforcement agencies, such as police officers, border officers, customs agents and relevant Ministries and parties to ensure the provisions of the Act are effectively carried out.

The Minister of Finance, Hon SILI Epa Tuioti, addressed the issue of tax evasion which the Bill provides, stating that currently the Principal Act provides penalties for ‘tax avoidance’ rather than the tax evasion. The Minister elaborated that various companies were knowingly not paying taxes which was illegal.

The Governor explained there being a special Task Force assigned to develop the capacity of enforcement agencies to effectively carry out the Act, noting relevant Ministries, Authorities and Corporations were part of the task force. Additionally Maiava, explained the reason for the transferral of powers from the Courts to the Governor, was due to the timeliness of issuing Stop Orders; she elaborated that bank transfers occurred rapidly, thus the need for the appropriate Authority to react quickly. Furthermore, due to the absence of a regulatory body to administer cryptocurrency, therefore no protection provided for the consumers who utilise this product/service. Moreover the problem with computer-generated products, hackers can easily tamper and obtain the information thus the risk on consumers; however, the Central Bank of Samoa is tasked with the protection of the consumer’s rights specifically in regards to the movement of money. The Governor took note of the issues and concerns raised and concluded by acknowledging the Speaker and Members for the opportunity to further clarify the background and intents of the amendment Bill.

(2) Education Amendment Bill 2018

Presenter: Afamasaga Dr. Karoline Afamasaga-Fuatai
Chief Executive Officer
Responsible Ministry: Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture

The Chief Executive Officer read out the main objectives of the Bill, which included the following:
• Amending the the compulsory school-age from ‘5 to 14 years’ to ‘4 years (for Early Childhood Education) and between 5 years to 16 years old (for primary and secondary school);
• Amending section 23 to allow the use of reasonable force by a secondary school teacher on a child, if the force is used in a reasonable circumstance (including but not limited to preventing or minimizing harm to the child and so forth).
• The Bill further amends section 23 of the Principal Act to insert a new subsection 3A to prohibit the use of any object by a secondary school teacher when imposing force on a child as this is an offence under the Crimes Act 2013; and
• to prohibit the use of alcohol, narcotics and tobacco for teachers and students during school hours or any school organized activity.

The inclusion of Early Childhood Education (ECE) as compulsory learning was well received by Members, noting that the child’s brain is at its sharpest at the ages of 1 – 5years. Furthermore, mixed concerns were raised in regards to teachers using ‘reasonable force’ on students; Members queried how the term ‘reasonable’ may be determined. Other Members disagreed with the using of the term ‘force’ noting that the act is intended to prevent harm/violence caused by one student to another; therefore the appropriate term would be ‘preventative or corrective action’. In regards to the prohibition of tobacco and alcohol by students and teachers in schools was appreciated and acknowledged by Members, and suggested to have all schools a ‘Smoke-free zone’ whereby no parent or school committee member can smoke on school grounds.

Members also queried the preparedness of the Ministry to enact the provision to have Early Childhood Education mandatory; other Members queried the capacity of the Ministry in terms of having enough resources, specifically having enough teachers at the Early Childhood Education level.

The Chief Executive took note of the concerns raised by Members and stated that the Ministry in collaboration with relevant partners are preparing teachers at the Certificate, Diploma and Degree levels specialized in Early Childhood Education and further clarified that negotiations and discussions are underway for appropriate facilities for ECE. Afamasaga clarified that the term reasonable force was much debated during drafting stages of the Bill, as its development partners (UNDP) disagreed with the term; however it was accepted as explicitly stated in the Bill that objects are not to be used when applying force, in addition, she elaborated that the Courts are also open to determine and measure the appropriate force used by the teacher.

The Hon. Speaker thanked the Governor and the Chief Executive Officer for their presentations and extended his gratitude to all the Members of Parliament who attended the Briefing. He then concluded with a prayer.