Former Head of State worries about customary land

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FORMER HEAD OF STATE: His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi in Auckland for the conference. Photo / RNZI.

FORMER HEAD OF STATE: His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi in Auckland for the conference. Photo / RNZI.

Former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, has reportedly admitted he was “pressured into signing the Land Title Registration Act in 2008” when he was in office.

He apparently made the admission in New Zealand last week during the Pacific Law, Custom and Constitutionalism Conference I, held at the Auckland University where he was the keynote speaker

During the conference, the former Head of State and Prime Minister was asked about the issue. 

Tui Atua is quoted by Radio New Zealand as saying he was pressured into signing the controversial land law, which many critics of the Government fear will alienate customary land.

And now he is calling for the law to be repealed. He said he signed the Land Title Registration Act in 2008 before realising there should have been a referendum on it.

He said he was told the Act would not affect customary land rights. But Radio New Zealand goes on to report the Head of State as saying Samoans need to understand the legislation affects their customary rights and they must do everything to keep their land.

"There is a very insistent call to try and identify what it is that makes us the people that we are and once we find that, how to find the match with western theology, philosophy, politics because you have to live with others in the world, you have to relate to them in so many ways," he said.

The L.T.R.A. is an act to provide for: 

• the establishment and maintenance of a Register of title to land; 

• the establishment of ownership of interests in land by registration; 

• the recording in the Register of information in respect of transactions with land;

• access to information recorded in the Register; and (f) matters incidental to the above.

One of the biggest critics of L.T.R.A, Fiu Mataese Elisara, was also among the speakers at the conference.

In his address, he expressed concerns about the law.

“Samoans rightly claim customary lands and traditional resources through ancestral ownership - a birthright respected as lawful and brings with it authority and sovereignty,” he said. 

“We are therefore stunned that the dangers posed by L.T.R.A. are serious, tantamount to forever losing our customary lands and resources! Yet we have never authorized, nor given up, any of our ancestors-given rights of ownership.”

Fiu goes on to remind about the importance of being vigilant about land laws.

“In the context of our customary land tenure systems, it is remiss of us if we allow ourselves to be pressured into premature laws and agreements by the momentum of contemporary land grabbing and land reform processes,” he said. 

“Or content ourselves with forced decisions which paper over indigenous non-negotiable realities and fundamental disagreements. Resistance from locally affected peoples and communities is widespread as they increasingly assert their rights to self-determination and veto over forced globalization, colonization, the exercise of governments and corporate powers." 

“Citizens are demanding accountability as condition for their free prior and informed consent!” 

(Fiu’s paper will be published in full in tomorrow’s Samoa Observer.) 

Other prominent Samoans who spoke at the conference include Judge Ida Malosi of the NZ District, Family & Youth Courts, Sister Vitolia Mo’a of S.M.S.M and the C.E.O of Samoa Law Reform Commission, Teleiai Dr. Lalotoa Mulitalo.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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