The Asian Development Bank (A.D.B) has again dismissed claims about the individualisation and alienation of customary land.
The point is made by Robert Jauncey, Regional Director South Pacific Sub-Regional Office Asian Development Bank, in a letter to the Samoa Observer.
“All A.D.B activities in Samoa are undertaken only at the request of the Government of Samoa,” Mr. Jauncey writes (see letter in full http://sobserver.ws/en/28_04_2016/letterstotheeditor/5464/Asian-Development--Bank-responds.htm).
“Samoa is a founding member and shareholder of A.D.B, and A.D.B has provided over US$270 million in grants and concessional finance to Samoa in the past 50 years to assist Government-led development efforts.”
Mr. Jauncey referred to an earlier response from the Bank about the initial complaint raised by a group of matai that includes Fiu Mataese Elisara, of Sili, Lilomaiava Dr. Ken Lameta, of Vaimoso, Telei’ai Dr. Sapa Saifaleupolu, of Samatau and Leuluaiali’i Tasi Malifa, of Afega.
“Neither A.D.B advice nor the Samoa agribusiness support project will involve involuntary acquisition of land or displacement of people,” that response dated 2 October 2015 said.
“The fundamental principle set down by the Samoan Government is that there can be and will be no alienation of customary land.
“Reforms being explored by the government, with ADB advice, focus on potentially allowing leases of customary land - recognized in Samoan law since 1965 - to be used as collateral for financing.
“In line with the government’s stance, ADB’s support is not intended to change customary land tenure arrangements in Samoa. Underlying ownership of land will remain with customary landowners, as required by the Constitution and Samoan tradition.
“The government has been clear that any reforms will recognize and enforce the rights of customary land owners. Customary land owners will continue to have full authority to decide whether or not to enter into any lease.
Customary land owners would have the right to approve or disallow the use of a lease as collateral for a loan. Customary land owners would retain the power to approve or disallow any assignment of a lease to a third party, even in the event that a leaseholder defaults on a loan. And customary land owners would retain first right to receive lease payments and other benefits in accordance with the lease.”