Topic: The consequences of legal pluralism for law reform in the South Pacific

Presenter: Ms Lalotoa Sinaalamaimaleula Mulitalo - TC Beirne School of Law - PhD Candidate

In the South Pacific, the consequences of colonialism were plural societies and legal systems. At independence, it was generally believed that countries' new constitutions gave them the best of both worlds. Although the constitutions were a western concept, they promised renewed respect for customary laws. Just short of 50 years since the first Pacific country (Samoa) became independent, there is a notable trend in some South Pacific countries to question the wisdom of their constitutions. The compatibility of the western notions perpetuated and reaffirmed by those documents with the views of the majority of the population, whose daily lives are still ruled by traditional governance, is being challenged. Against this backdrop, post-independent South Pacific countries, like many other jurisdictions, regard law reform as an element of the developmental process. However, law reform in pluralistic jurisdictions like the South Pacific has its own unique set of challenges. The development of the law reform process in the region must take account of pluralism if it is to be effective on the ground floor. This developmental process involves enormously complex and often unpredictable patterns of competition, interaction and negotiation. This thesis argues that without regard to the issues raised by the realities of social and legal pluralism, law reform will fail or be ineffective. The issues are examined in the context of Samoa, with Tonga being used for comparative study. The thesis will put forward options for the process of law reform that will accommodate the plurality of laws.

All welcome, no RSVP required.

Contact: Beth Williams, ph: 334 69350, email:

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