Former Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Lauofo Meredith has reassured the nation that they should not have to worry about the mortgaging of leases of customary lands.
The reassurance was issued by the Member of Parliament during an interview with the Sunday Samoan on the Alienation of Customary Land Amendment Bill 2017, discussed in Parliament this week.
“Leases of customary lands have been in the Constitution since 1965,” he said. “So it is safe. Even my career as a lawyer, I have drafted leases of customary lands and again it is safe.”
Fonotoe assured there is nothing to worry about.
This week, Parliament Members debated the proposed amendments in relation to mortgages of leases over customary land.
Most of them expressed concerns.
But Fonotoe is optimistic.
“It is very simple. There is nothing to worry about. I have done leases, on customary lands registration and also motragtes on leases of customary lands and they are legal,” he said.
According to the Alientation of Customary Land amendments, it seeks 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.
The bill further notes that overall, the amendments aim to strengthen the legal framework to safeguard the constitutional protection against the alienation of customary land, and while 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.”
This week, Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, called some Members of Parliament liars and irresponsible over this same issue.
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,” she said.
“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.”