The Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry looking into the performance of Land and Titles Court Judges (L.T.C) is closed to the public.
This was confirmed by the Deputy Chairman of the Commission and deputy Speaker of Parliament, Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti.
The Inquiry will start next Monday and it is to be held at Parliament’s make shift home at Tuana’imato.
According to Nafoitoa, there are many reasons why the sitting is closed.
“The public cannot hear it all until the report is done,” he said. “We are concerned about the witnesses and their ability to speak to the Commission freely. So we will wait until the report is submitted to Parliament and then it will be made public.”
The Deputy Chairman also declined a request for the media to sit in during the hearing.
Asked how many people have expressed interest in making submissions so far, Nafoitoa said there have been many. He did not give a number.
“All issues will be covered from the general public and the side of the Courts including the Judges,” said Nafoitoa. “But wait until such a time then we can reveal everything when the report is passed on to Parliament.”
The Deputy Chairman was also asked if Parliament had the power to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to review the work of the L.T.C. He said yes.
“I cannot tell you (where in the Constitution) but the answer is yes. You will know when we have our report ready.”
The call for an Inquiry was made in a Ministerial speech delivered by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi last month in Parliament.
According to the Prime Minister, the privilege of being an L.T.C. Judge is being used as “a holiday” by some Judges. He said the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry would determine whether the Judges are doing what they are supposed to.
“There needs to be checks for men and women judges of the Land and Titles Court,” Tuilaepa said. “If the Court does not fix its internal issues, there is a duty of the Parliament to make an order with the two third support from the M.Ps in the House…”
Tuilaepa said Parliament could submit an application to the Head of State to remove any Judge who is not performing.
The matters they should look into is, firstly, rule and procedures of Land and Titles Court,” he said. “Secondly the appointments and scrutiny of the Land and Titles judges performances.
The investigation will look directly into ways to advice the Land and Titles Court development mainly on a clearer rules and procedures to deal with matters before the Court and to minimise wasted time of respondents and the load of work for the Courts where government has also wasted money on.”
Tuilaepa said the Inquiry should make it clear that the appointments of L.T.C. Judges are contractual so they can be re-interviewed if they are still qualified to continue their duties.
“I don’t have to say it but every work place should have its own checks to make sure that they are doing their duties. It’s the same with the government Ministries and State owned enterprises where after every three years the contract will be re-advertised to see if there is anyone else better than the boss (of the ministry).”