Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has cautioned leaders and representatives of the Government in villages not to be “easily fooled” by people making claims that Samoa’s land has been “taken by China.”
He also warned against being misled by people who claim that they are legal experts and know-it all when it comes to matters of customary lands. Prime Minister Tuilaepa did not name anyone in particular and he wasn’t immediately available to elaborate.
But he did not mince his words.
“Don’t be easily fooled by people who claim to be lawyers,” Tuilaepa said.
“They go around and call meetings with the village mayors and mislead some of you. They claim the Chinese have taken your lands. So let me ask you, have you lost your lands to any Chinese?”
Tuilaepa made the comments at the Tooa Salamasina Hall yesterday during a meeting with Village Mayors where policies and guidelines on the development of villages were launched.
The meeting was well attended by more than 400 leaders from villagers across the country. Women representatives were also present.
Tuilaepa used the opportunity to remind the Village Mayors about their roles, noting that they are to guard against people whose agenda is to mislead their villagers.
“You are a representative of the Government and you are appointed to serve,” said Tuilaepa.
About claims that customary lands are under threat, Tuilaepa said it was foolish to compare Samoa to New Zealand and Australia.
“In New Zealand, the land belongs to Maoris yet they are not running their government. It’s the same in Australia where the Aborigines are not in charge of their government.
“Samoa is different. Samoans are in charge of our country, our chiefs are leading the way, we understand our ways and values.”
Tuilaepa added that each and every Samoan was gifted with a conscience and common sense. Many Samoan chiefs are also highly educated.
This conscience and common sense gives us the ability to judge between what is right and wrong,” he said.
The Prime Minister said because some village mayors are not alert, they are being misled.
“And so what happens next, some of you lead those people who damage Government signs and government properties,” he said. “I am shocked.”
Tuilaepa said this happens after village chiefs receive “lafo” (monetary gifts) and they are quick to forget all the good work that the Government has done.
The Prime Minister said his frustration is towards the Village Mayors who should investigate the agenda of these people who are “calling meetings in the villages and misleading the public on the issue of customary lands.”
“Be mindful,” he said. “Satan is smart and has his ways to get you to do his dirty work and in the end, you are the one that will be humiliated.
“And so my advice, do not appoint idiots as Village Mayors to represent the Government in village affairs.”
The Prime Minister did not name anyone or any group. He also did not identify which village mayors he was talking about.
But the Samoa Solidarity International Group, led by lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, has been actively conducting sessions in different villages on the issue of customary lands.
The S.S.I.G. has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the Samoa Government over the Land Titles Registration Act (L.T.R.A.) 2008.The S.S.I.G. are questioning the “legality” and the “constitutionality” of the Act.