Safua vocally opposed to L.T.C bills.

A senior chief from the village of Safua, Savai'i, did not mince words when his opinion was sought on the proposed changes to the Lands and Titles Court (L.T.C.).

In an interview at the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development's office at Salelologa on Friday, Tevaga Laulu Peseta said the village "strongly opposed the changes." 

The interview took place after the village made their submission to a Special Parliamentary Committee soliciting the views of the public on bills for overhauling the L.T.C. and amending the constitution. 

The proposed changes are contained within the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, the Lands and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020, currently before Parliament. 

The Special Committee was in Savai'i for two days and started its public consultations for the villages of Fa'asaleleaga No 1 and 2 before moving onto Safua.

"Things are different nowadays," Tevaga said. 

"We stay at home and we watch how the wind blows and how the weather changes from time to time. (And) when we see that something bad is about to happen, we get up and do something about it. 

"That is why we have gathered here today. There are some things that we are unhappy about which led to us opposing these proposed changes. 

"We have doubts and are uncertain about the changes proposed, it is a must for us  to voice our concerns. 

"In that way, whatever happens in the future and [whatever] the outcome is going to be, at least we can say that we tried and we played our part by voicing our opinions and concerns and presented them to the Committee."

Tevaga highlighted that their main concern is the bills’ potential impact on Samoa’s future. 

"These are very sensitive issues and we need to be careful and take an in-depth approach before a decision is made,” Tevaga said. 

"What we decide now, can have an impact on our children tomorrow. Therefore, we really need to look at these things carefully. Once we make the wrong choice today, our children will be the ones to suffer in the future."

Turning to Samoa as a whole, Tevaga said that the nation should “remain calm and sail smoothly” but also to "speak up and fight for what is right."

"Let's all look ahead and keep the peace,” he said. 

"Those who are in Parliament are our leaders, but that does not mean we are not allowed to stand up and fight for what is right. 

"I strongly oppose the three bills that have been brought back to communities by the Parliament's Special Committee. 

"We have already made our submission to the Committee. Our main concern is the future of our children.

"If these bills are passed and become laws, it will mean that everything will be controlled by one hand. 

"They will hold and control everything."

Tevaga was adamant that things remain "as they are" and about his opposition to the proposed changes.

Among the changes contained within the bills are a cap on the number of paramount chiefs that can be bestowed on each family to five. 

"Leave it to the families and those who lead the families to choose who to become a matai and how many titleholders they want to bestow,” Tevaga said. 

"But to say that it should be up to the Government to choose who and how many, that is not the way to do things. I strongly disagree with the changes. 

"In the issue concerning lands, I do not agree with the changes. Lands and titles are what we refer to as "measina" (treasure) and it belongs to the families. 

"We can not just give up our rights to our lands and titles which have been passed down to us from our ancestors who fought so hard for us to be free. 

"We are free to do whatever we want on our own lands because it is how it has always been."

Tevaga went on to say that the Committee accepted their submission and that they will consider it.  

"Our advice to them is to be cautious and think very hard about these things. This is their time, and if they make a wrong move, it will be hard to fix in the future,” he said. 

"They were all laughing when we made our submission as we did not mince our words. We presented our plea from our hearts from what we believe is best for our children and for our country. 

"We told them to consider our plea and not just say that they have accepted our plea but then go ahead and do something else and not what we requested to do. 

"We also asked them not to throw our requests out of the window."

Asked about what they would do next if their submission was disregarded by Parliament when it made its final decision on the bills after the committee sat, Tevaga said things might turn out "ugly".

"If they do not accept or consider our submissions and request, it means that they have outwitted us,” he said. 

"The only thing left to do is to go into war [with the Government]. But we do not want to go down that path. 

"We appreciate that they have made the effort to come out and conduct these consultations and make time to listen to what we have to say. 

"If what we say does not sit right with them or they do not like what we say, they should be understanding that we all want what is best for our country."

The Member of Parliament for the village of Safua, is also the Chairperson of the Special Committee, Gatoloaifa'ana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow.

"Our Member of Parliament is the Chairperson of the Committee and that did not hold us back from saying that we [are strongly] opposed to the changes proposed in these bills,” he said. 

"This is because we know and understand how democracy works and we had to voice our opinions, just because our Member of Parliament is leading the Committee, does not mean we all have to support her and agree to whatever changes proposed. 

“That's not how it should be. 

"They are in office because we voted for them, but that does not mean I should follow and support everything the government says. If something does not seem right, we speak up and voice our opinion."

The Special Committee have already heard submissions from Tafua, to Salelologa, Salelavalu, Vaiafai, Iva and Safua during two days of consultations in Savai'i. 

The Special Parliamentary Committee is chaired by Gatoloaifa’ana Amataga Alesana Gidlow. Members include Namulauulu Sami Leota, Sulamanaia Tuivasa Tauiliili, Faaulusau Duffy Stowers, Fuimaono Teo Samuelu, Leaana Ronnie Posini and Ili Setefano Ta’ateo.

The public consultations, which have been closed to the media, continues this week.



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