Member of Parliament for Vaisigano No. 1, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, says the issue of customary land lease is a matter of choice for the families to make.
He made the comment in assuring that when it comes to his constituency, there is nothing to worry about with regards to the opening of the channel at the district.
He was responding to assuage public fears that opening up of the channel and the reviving of the wharf will invite big business interests during a time when there are real public concerns about the alienation of customary lands.
Lopao’o, who is also the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, says his stance on the issue is very simple.
“It comes down to choice,” Lopao’o said. “If they want to lease it, they can. If in any way people don’t feel right and they don’t want to lease, they don’t have to."
“I can only speak for my district and remember the Government already has land in Asau, so if worse comes to worse, then I’m sure that Government will say let’s use our land. But that’s up to the Government."
“How long the beneficiaries want to lease their land is also the decision of the beneficiaries, if they want to lease the land for five years and the leasee agrees with that then that’s fine. If the leasee doesn’t agree with it, then don’t go with it."
“There are many options available to those interested in leasing their lands, if they want 10 plus 10, they can do that. No one is going to say to the Government ‘these people refuse to lease their lands to us, can you go make them lease it to us?’ that’s not going to happen.”
The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.) pointed out that any investors are welcome to Asau, but they will not be immune to scrutiny by the law or the concerns of the Village Council.
“All investors are welcome here because we want to provide opportunities for employment to people and it would stop the migration to Apia but everybody will go through the same scrutiny and the village council will have a say in who comes and who doesn’t."
“There are actually people in Asau who are interested in leasing their land for development purposes but no matter what that has to be done in accordance to the law. The law is supposed to protect them, if there was no love, there would be no laws to protect the people’s right to property."
“The people of Asau are actually working hard with what they have got. The people who are being vocal in their complaining are not even contributing to this district or they don’t live there. In fact I think some of them don’t even know where it is."
“I just want to help them and my whole district. I’m not going to give them the fish. I have to give them the hook and line so they can fish every day for themselves.”