P.M. Tuilaepa, President Trump and Samoa’s wonderful controversy

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

What do Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the U.S. President Donald Trump have in common? 

After the events of the past couple of days in Samoa, we can confidently say they love the use of the term “fake news.” Let’s just park this here for now, we’ll come back to it later this in this piece.

What we want to say is that there are always two sides to a story.

 And so goes the ongoing wonderful controversy about customary lands and fears about land alienation. 

The visit by the President of the Asian Development Bank, Takehiko Nakao, this past week provided the perfect opportunity for the issue to be debated and brought to the fore. 

Which is precisely what happened. With the protests and everything that followed, it’s been quite a week, certainly an interesting way to start 2019.

What’s been said and written this past week, are only the latest in a long history of different and contradicting opinions expressed by experts and ordinary members of the public, about this issue. 

Which is great because it shows that the people of this country are concerned enough about what’s happening, and they are taking a stand. It’s a healthy development and a normal part of democracy. 

Of course no one likes a protest – especially if you are the target. As you would have seen, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his administration have not reacted too kindly to the issue. They have stuck to their guns, doing the best they can to quash the concerns, calling them fake news. He’d in fact have taken a further step by saying the concerns are “stupid”, “all garbage” and are being promoted by individuals who refuse to understand.

Who these individuals are he did not say.

In yesterday’s Weekend Observer though, two people stood up, as if to offer themselves as sacrificial lambs.  

First was Fiu Mataese Elisara, the spokesperson for the group of matai who have taken on the A.D.B., through a formal complaint they have lodged. Fiu did not want to stoop to the level of using derogatory and disparaging words, saying it’s important that it is “best to be factual as possible.”

“We’ve always said that we support the laudable objective of the use of customary land for economic purposes, there is no one questioning that,” Fiu said. “The only thing we are questioning is the way it’s being done and the way customary lands are being used for those purpose.”

And then there was lawyer and Samoa First leader, Unasa Iuni Sapolu.

“That the constitution prohibits the sale, prohibits mortgages of customary land, prohibits the alienation of customary land does not mean the sale and alienation of customary land is not happening, because it is,” she said.

“The Crimes Act says you cannot assault a woman, you cannot kill a woman, but they are still being assaulted and killed.

 “That the most powerful man in Samoa, the Prime Minister, says there’s no sale — does not mean customary land is not being alienated. Please speak to customary land owners who are victims of customary land alienation.”

Unasa added there were many ways Samoans can be alienated from customary land, including long-term leases, mortgages of customary land leases, as well as fraudulent registration of customary land as freehold land.

There was one view though that Fiu and Unasa explicitly shared, it was their reaction to Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s constant reference to the term “fake news.”

For Fiu, he said he’s amazed to see the language of United States President Donald Trump being used in Samoa.

“It’s just amazing, you know, the kind of leadership that is actually influencing the mind-set of our own leaders, they end up using the same kind of unfortunate language,” Fiu said. “And they are pointing the fingers at themselves with the language that they use. It’s unfortunate.”

Unasa did not mince her words.

“To his fake news: what about Sasina, what about Salelologa, what about Nofoalii, what about Asau, Tiavea?” she responded, adding that Prime Minister Tuilaepa reference to “fake news” aligns himself with Trump.

 “The term “fake news” was stated and popularized by President Trump of the United States of America,” said Unasa. “Trump of course is a well-documented sexist, misogynist who supports white supremacists…he consistently calls C.N.N ‘fake news’. What does that make the Prime Minister?”

Well that’s an interesting question. 

What do you think? 

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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