Claims rubbished

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Fiame Naomi Mata'afa at Parliament. Photo: Misiona Simo.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Fiame Naomi Mata'afa at Parliament. Photo: Misiona Simo.

Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, has called some Members of Parliament liars. She has also accused them of being irresponsible.

Fiame did not name anyone in particular. 

But she was responding to claims from certain Members of Parliament that the Alienation of Customary Land Amendment Bill 2017 violates the Constitution. 

“Mr. Speaker, some Members have said we have overstepped the Constitution,” she said. 

 “I am in shock because these comments are brainwashing the public.” 

This is far from the truth, she said.

“Why were we elected by our constituencies? To make hard decisions for the betterment of Samoa, and that is the spirit behind this Bill. 

“However, some comments that been uttered are literally brainwashing our Chiefs and our children. They are irresponsible comments. 

 “This is not what the Members of Parliament should be doing; lying to the public. It is not true that the Constitution has been violated. I want to set the record straight, the Constitution has not been violated.

 “We can change the Constitution, but in accordance with the law.” 

The Bill in question is designed to strengthen the provisions relating to leasing and licensing of customary land and facilitate the mortgaging of leases over customary land. 

In Parliament yesterday, Fiame said there has been a mixture of comments on the issue, which is understandable given the Bill affects all Samoans. 

“Overall, it’s evident that the members are concerned that we might lose our customary lands,” she said.

 “The Prime Minister has been vocal about the issue not only in Parliament, but also outside of this place, expressing the views of the Government on the said issue.” 

The Deputy Prime Minster, who is also the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, made it clear there is no hidden agenda. 

 “There is nothing in the Bill that would allow for the customary lands to be sold or lost to the investors.” 

Fiame said other M.Ps have raised concerns about the beneficiaries of the leases. 

 “Another concern is whether only overseas investors are eligible to lease the customary lands,” she said. 

“No, this option is applicable to anyone, even Samoan families who want to lease the land.

 “I also want to address a point that has been mentioned in the background and from previous Members who expressed concerns pertaining to our lands. 

The chiefly title goes hand in hand with our customary lands. It is a general understanding that our lands belong to all of us, not just the high chief.

 Fiame pointed out that back in the days, there was one High Chief who oversees the lands and allocates which land each family is entitled to. 

 “Nowadays it has changed. Every family seeks to have their own land, and those are the new changes which is the reality of today. 

 “I am not saying it is good or bad, rather this is the reality.”

The Deputy P.M. said Article 102 of the Constitution  outlines the Alienation of Customary Lands Act 1965, which was established three years after the independence and the Taking of Lands Act 1963. 

 “Why? Because the Government saw the need to develop the land to allow the work on the roads and installation of water and electricity that will go through the customary lands.

 “It is allowed under our Constitution through the Taking of Lands Act 1963.  

 “It is to develop Samoa, not only for the Government but also the families utilising their leases. 

“However, Mr. Speaker, some Members have said we have stepped over the Constitution. 

 “I am in shock because these comments are brainwashing the public.” 

Fiame urged the Members of Parliament to take a closer look at the Bill. 

Fiame also hit out at criticisms of the Government’s plan to encourage development.

 “What is the purpose of the Government in the first place? Why were we elected in the first place? 

“If we listen to the concerns raised in Parliament then we will do nothing. About 80 percent of our customary lands will just be left there for nothing and we will get nothing.” 

Fiame said they are pushing to allow the mortgaging of the lease of the customary lands. She added that it is not an easy process.

According to Fiame, the plan has been in the pipeline 10 years. 

She urged the Members to be bold in their decision-making.

According to memorandum of proposed amendments: “The key amendments in relation to mortgages of leases over customary land are to facilitate the mortgaging process and put in place a number of legal prohibitions and requirements that will protect the ownership rights of the beneficial land owners, whilst also providing for the interests of mortgagors and mortgagees. 

 “Overall, the amendments aim to strengthen the legal framework to safeguard the Constitutional protection against the alienation of customary land, whilst ensuring the authorised manners of alienation (i.e. lease, license and mortgaging of leases over customary land) comply with the Constitution.

“The outcome is to improve the people’s standard of living through promoting greater economic use of customary land via leasing, licensing and mortgaging of leases over customary land. All Samoans stand to benefit from these amendments.” 

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