Govt. delegation asked to leave

Two senior Members of Parliament have downplayed an incident last week where a Government delegation was asked to leave the village of Gataivai Savai’i.

The delegation was led by the Associate Minister of Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D.), Tofa Lio Foleni, and it included Palauli le Falefa’s Member of Parliament and former Cabinet Minister, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga.

The delegation of senior Government officials had arrived at Gataivai to begin a two-day consultation with the constituency on the Government’s developments for the villages when the incident happened.

A senior chief of Palauli ile Falefa, Laulu Tiatia Mapesone, told the Samoa Observer he asked the senior Members of Parliament and their delegation to leave.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Laulu said the Government delegation did not come through the proper channels of communications.

He accused the Government of overstepping the boundary by using the Women’s Committee to promote their “agenda” – which he said was not just about small developments in the villages.

“They have overstepped the boundary of the central government (the village council) promoting their agenda through the women’s committee,” said Laulu.

“They created the Village Fono Act giving us the authority and power to watch over developments of the village and yet they decided to go through the women’s committee instead.

“The Village Council exists to protect the villagers and our lands and land is an issue nowadays. All those proposed developments and activities lead back to our lands and it is our duty to guard it.”

Contacted for a comment, Associate Minister Tofa confirmed the incident but said the issue was that the constituency was not aware of the consultation. He said the M.W.C.S.D. had contacted the Village Mayor about it, which is the normal process.

“The pulenu’u are the ones that are supposed to inform the villages of any government developments,” he said. “The consultation is for the betterment of the villages and we have met with several other villages in Upolu and Savai’i on the same project.

“The project is basically setting up a guideline for villages in terms of their developments so that it can be presented to our donors who will look at it and find financial assistance for those village developments. So it’s really something to help the villages.”

The Associate Minister also denied that the consultation was planned to discuss the issue of customary lands and its potential use.

M.P. for Palauli i le Falefa and former Cabinet Minister, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, said the elders of the constituency had asked them to discontinue the project to allow them to discuss their priorities.

“We weren’t booted out of the village,” he said, “we were asked by the elders to postpone it so the constituency can discuss it. They wanted time to discuss their priorities because they had not met to discuss it and to see where their priorities lie.  

“So they will meet after Easter and will reschedule another day for the Ministry to meet with them.”

Faumuina added that it appears there is a lot of “misinformation” on matters concerning land in the constituency.

But Laulu is not convinced.

He said that while the topic presented as a front for the consultation was development, he said it is “crystal clear what the motive is.”

“So the constituency has agreed to stop the programme and we will meet on Monday to discuss the matter further,” he said.

“The other issue is that we were not aware about what the consultation is on. We should have been informed beforehand.

“We know our priorities and the developments we need. That is what the Member of Parliament is for to voice our needs.”

Laulu added that while he does not demean the strength of women in the village, the Government needs to understand there are proper channels of communications when it comes to matters such as this.

He questioned why such a consultation needed to be chaired by the Member of Parliament.

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