Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has ridiculed a plan by an group known as “Samoa Solidarity International (S.S.I.)” to stage a protest march from Vaisigano to Mulinu’u on Saturday 16 December 2017.
The group is unhappy about a number of issues including what they call “illegal land reform law, L.T.R. (Land Torren System) 2008,” claiming that the Act “was passed in violation of the Samoa Constitution by removing the constitutional prohibition against Customary Land alienation.”
But Tuilaepa said many of these people – including anonymous online bloggers – are “off in the head.”
“These people are seeking financial gains which allows them to travel overseas to attend meetings pertaining to issues of our lands,” Tuilaepa said.
He did not name anyone in particular.
But he said the people promoting the idea are behind anonymous bloggers such as “O le Palemia” (O.L.P) and other anti-government blogs.
“These are the same people who are hiding behind the Ole Palemia and I am happy that I will get to see their faces in public (at the march),” Tuilaepa said.
“I know who they are. This is good as it will allow the public to know who these people are, who have been defaming and publicly criticizing our people.”
Asked if his government would grant them a permit to march, Tuilaepa said that’s a decision to be made by the Commissioner of Police, Fuiava Egon Keil, based on merit. As the Minister of Police, he said he doesn’t want to interfere with Fuiava’s role.
But the protest plan is interesting, the Prime Minister said.
“Up until now, I have not received anything. They intend to go to the Malae o Tiafau and currently the Parliament building is not completed.
“Maybe they’ll go and give their complaint to the roof of Parliament and maybe voice their concerns to the construction workers there.
“So to me it’s clear they are off in the head. I mean they should bring their concerns directly to me, and then I would say leave it with me, I will pass it on to the Attorney General for a legal opinion.”
As for the gist of the complaint, Tuilaepa said they have got it all wrong.
“The Torrens system was specifically for the privately owned land.”
He said with this system there was no need for a deed of ownership; rather the Torrens Land System requires registration of the land with the government.
“The explanation at the time was crystal clear by the government, that customary land will not be affected by the (Torren) system.”
The Torren Land System is a solution to predicaments faced by people purchasing land without proper ownership documents by the land owners.
“In the old system, unless the deed is provided nothing can be done about changing the ownership of land, despite the fact the money from the land sale has been used,” he said.
“That problem exists until this very day.”
However for the Torren Land System, “you have to register your name with the system and most governments now a days have utilized this system, such as New Zealand and Australia.
“The Torren system is specifically for the private owned land, but does not apply to communal land as it’s prohibited under the Constitution.
“I am puzzled as to where these unfounded ideas come from.
“Remember these laws are put in place, after receiving clearance from the Attorney General. The law in question does not affect our customary land.
“Prior to introducing any act, the Attorney General goes through the Bill thoroughly and the Attorney General is the only lawyer that we listen to, this is mandated under the Constitution of Samoa.
“Also at the Attorney General’s Office, there are about 30 lawyer who sort out issues that come to their office. And these people who are opposing are not lawyers.
“Some of them used to work for the government and they are upset about something and this is their way of getting back to the government.
“They are the ones who are adding fuel to the fire, yet they used to be a part of the government and agreed to these changes.”
Tuilaepa reminded that it has taken a lot of time for public consultations about the issue in question.
“Then it came back to Parliament, and it took over a year for the Parliamentary Committee to go over it. They also held more public consultations and I don’t recall seeing any of these people who are now opposing the law.
“In my view, just let them talk. They know the issue they are arguing about is stupid but they continue to do it, most especially when they have taken the issues overseas.
“I remember going to a meeting with the Asian Development Bank in 2014 and this issue was brought to my attention. And I told them; don’t worry about issues that do not concern you.”
It was not possible to get a comment from Samoa Solidarity International (S.S.I.) yesterday.