Acting Village Mayor disputes reports
A spokesman for the village of Falefa has disputed reports saying they are in the dark about the Government’s plans to overhaul the Land and Titles Court.
The Acting Village Mayor, Fanualelei Purcell, said that contrary to previous media reports in which Tuilaepa Soiamoa Mary Grey said the village matai were in “the dark” about the changes, the village was, in fact, supportive of the changes.
In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Fanualelei said some of the more than 300 matai who compose the Village Council have many unanswered questions and look forward to providing input on the changes.
Broadly speaking though, he said the village supported the change.
Fanualelei further defended their local constituent Member of Parliament, Alaiasa Sepulona Moananu.
“I don’t know about other Members of Parliament, but our Member of Parliament is in every village council meeting,” he said.
“Falefa meets on Saturdays because other villages have meetings on Monday but Saturday is our day to meet. Our Member of Parliament spoke about these bills in our meeting on Saturday so I answered him and I thanked him for informing us.
“The laws are clear because we have seen and heard it on TV and we understand. There are a lot of positive things to these bills but people don’t understand.
“The reason those lawyers are opposing the bills is because it will mean not enough money for them. That is what I believe. But as for the legislation, this village supports the bills from the Government.
“For example, there have been many cases between families who would have to wait for months for a court decision. And when the decision is handed down, what the family submits is disregarded but one person wins. That is one of the reasons we support these three bills.”
He said the village council has asked Alaiasa to commune with the Parliamentary Committee and set a date so the village can prepare their submissions to the committee.
“Our village has asked our Member of Parliament because we have learned that members of the Parliamentary Committee will visit the villages…we don’t have a date yet. Our MP will tell us on Saturday what day Falefa can meet with the committee.
“But I strongly object to [the views of matai who say we are in] the dark about the bills. How can we be in the dark when we have been enlightened?”
The Village Council, he said, happily accepted and received the information from Alaiasa in the Saturday meeting.
“Our only request made to our Member of Parliament is that we be given an opportunity for the committee to come here so we can give them our views and to discuss the bills. Are there things in the bills that should be removed or not done? Or is there something that should be added to the bills? That is what needs to be done,” said Fanualelei.
“There are so many matai in this village…about 300. There could be one family but they have 10 matai. We are happy our Member of Parliament came to us and that is why we asked our Member of Parliament to give us a date with the committee…so we can have our input to remove what makes the bills weak and include what is needed to strengthen the bills.”
One example of something the village wants changed concerns land disputes where a family who has lived on the land and served the village and church and contributed monotaga but then someone who was “gallivanting” elsewhere without serving or contributing the village would lay claim to land and a house, file a complaint in the courts and win.
“The village supported the family who lived on that land in regard to the house because they served the village…the case went on for months but when the court decision was handed down the [person] who was gallivanting around and does not contribute monotaga and does not support the church, the [person] won the case. But the village did have a submission. That is one thing this village wants to say to the Parliament. The court has awarded one person versus the family who served the village…the village supported the family but they still lost the case. How can that happen?,” he said.
Falefa is among the villages that were scheduled to perform in the 1 June, 2020 Independence Day celebrations, which have been canceled this year. Fanualelei was also called to serve on the flag-raising ceremony’s committee, he said.
“As for me and this village, I will tell you the truth – where ever our Member of Parliament stands, our village is with him. I don’t know about other villages but where ever our Member of Parliament stands, Falefa is there [with him]. We are in agreement with the cancellation of the Independence Day festivities. We are one of the villages that were supposed to sing in the festivities,” he said.
“The reason our village supports the decision is because we are looking at how this pandemic that has affected the entire world. That is why our village has accepted the cancellation of the celebrations.
“This village does not protest to what the Government wants.”
Falefa is in the midst of changing their village mayor but it has not been finalised.
While another person has been named to serve as Village Mayor by the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development, Fanualelei is still acting in the capacity of the Village Mayor.
Repeated attempts to contact Tuilaepa on Friday were not successful.