The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) says all reclaimed land belongs to the state and that position is clear under the law.
Chief Executive Officer of M.N.R.E., Ulu Bismark Crawley, said this when confirming the dispute with Salelologa resident Matamua Samuela over land possessed using provisions of the Taking of Land Act to extend the Salelologa wharf.
“The Government is ready to compensate the families. However, there is not just one family involved,” said Ulu.
Matamua, who has been battling the Government over what he claims is his family’s customary land since 2005, showed documents to the Samoa Observer that included correspondence as well as a Land and Titles Court decision that ruled in their favour.
But Ulu said the reclaimed land had already been registered to the Samoa Shipping Corporation (S.S.C.) as indicated by the general manager Papali’i Willie Nansen.
“It is quite clear that the Government owns the oceans and so any reclaimed land also belongs to the Government,” he said.
“The Samoa Government is ready to compensate the Matamua family with the fair market value of their customary land for the extension of the wharf in Salelologa."
"However, we want to make sure we are paying the right families, we have several families who have put in claims since this parcel was advertised last year for government purposes.”
The C.E.O. confirmed that the Government has been sent an invoice by the disputing family.
“In return, Matamua Samuela has sent us an invoice, seeking compensation for their customary land in the amount of $1,455,180 for unpaid land rental rates. This includes cost for trees, the Samoan fale and land taken to extend a government-made road.
However, there is no valuation report.
This report has to be submitted in order for the Government to consider the invoice.”
Land that was possessed using provisions of the Land Taking Act of 1964 will be paid by the Government according to Ulu.
“Another issue at hand is that we will compensate that land that has been advertised to be taken under the Land Taking Act of 1964; which is one quarter acre and so we will not consider other lands or such that is included in the invoice by the family.”