A former Cabinet Minister and leader of the Opposition, Vaai Papu Vaai, has added his voice to the ongoing debate about customary lands.
Speaking to the Sunday Samoan as the Sa’o of his family, Vaai reminded that Constitution is clear.
And that is a referendum is needed to determine the usage of customary lands – especially when it involves the risk of alienation.
He said the most dangerous outcome of the law as it stands is its ability for a single person to be given a freehold title, while the extended family is excluded in the decision-making.
“This is why there should be a referendum. The Sa’o doing something with the land without consulting all the sulis is the most dangerous part of what this Act allows,” he said, referring to the Land Titles Registration Act 2008.
“What will happen is there is a big difference within our culture, when we talk about lands it is owned by the Sa’o."
“And the selecting of the Sa’o, you have to choose the suli (heirs) before any further actions, all the sulis should agree. I’ll give you an example of what happened at Tiavea Village."
“I am not sure how many acres there are, 50 or 40 acres and the Government wants to build an airport there. There are also some people of this village that want to sell these land but what they should do is put it on lease to the Government."
“It’s safer to put it on lease than sell it off because what will happen is they will have sell their land to the Government and the Government has the right to do whatever they want with the land."
“The Government should never encourage the selling of land.”
Vaai said there are a lot of lessons to be learnt.
“Looking at this case here, I think they are getting $6 million tala to Tiavea Village and the Government does not have the money."
“So the Government is now searching for someone to get this money from and we have got to pay that money back. It’s like a mortgage but with customary land you can’t lease it because it belongs to the Government. That is what’s scaring everyone. It can happen.”
Vaai laments that the current Government lacks fair representation and does not reflect the diversity of voters that exist in this country.
“That is the thing nowadays with the H.R.P.P.,” he said. “All the laws and regulations is tied to them so that there will be only one person that rules.
“All these M.Ps within Parliament they are all under H.R.P.P., there should be another party.
“With the changing of the M.Ps in Parliament, every time there is a renewal of Faipule, there will always be a change."
“There is no consistency and nothing meaningful is ever completed. That is the other thing with most M.Ps they rarely come to their district, if they do, they just wave farewell on their way past. They are meant to be the voice of the whole district.”
Asked about the decision by the former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, to raise his concerns about the issue, Vaai said he hasn’t read the full paper yet.
“But with my own understanding, I agree with what he means when he puts forward the question ‘o fea alofa’ because love is what grounds us all and we must always return to that.”