Customary lands compel Afamasaga to contest
Election hopeful Afamasaga Tamanana Uelese knows the importance of customary lands and is keen to address the challenges if elected.
The candidate for A'ana Alofi No.3. strongly believes that without customary lands, Samoa’s future generation will suffer.
And that is precisely why the issue motivated him to raise his hand to run in the election.
Flying the Tautua Samoa Party banner in the 2021 General Elections, Afamasaga is unlike other candidates who vowed to make better roads, improve the supply of electricity and water among other services.
It’s not that he's not interested in the developments.
But he instead fears that Samoa is slowly losing ownership of its customary lands.
"We are slowly losing our lands," Afamasaga told the Samoa Observer.
"Something that is dear and precious to us. If we look at Satapuala, one of the villages for our constituency, people have been evicted from one side to the other side of the village because of developments [...] on our land and the Government is not considering the effects this has on our people.
Land, according to Afamasaga, is our heritage from God.
"It was God's gift for us, given to us to use and live on, freely," he said.
"The truth is, for so many years, we have been pushing for that issue. However, the chosen Members of Parliament are not voicing these concerns in Parliament.
Some of them are just sitting there in Parliament, doing nothing. That is why I have decided to take this opportunity so I can do something for my people.
"This is a very sensitive and crucial issue. If we don't consider it now, our children will suffer the effects of our actions now.
"If we use our lands for economic purposes, we will definitely lose ownership of our lands in the next 10 or 20 years."
Afamasaga went on to say that paying for land will only add to people's financial burdens.
"The question is if we start paying for lands, where will our people get that extra money from? With the low rate our people are getting, how are we going to cope with that? We don't want to be like other countries who spend a lot of money on land," he added.
"We are quite fortunate that we get to live on our own lands and enjoy it freely."
And why has Afamasaga chosen to align with the Tautua Samoa Party?
"They have a plan that will benefit the whole country. A plan that reflects love and respect for all aspects of our culture and welfare," he said.
"[It is] something that reaches and touches the heart. We are all struggling, but we can't do much about it.
"However, if we change the government, we will be able to help our ordinary people.
"I strongly believe that what we do now, matters in the future. If we ignore these problems now, especially when it comes to land and culture, we will face what we call, cultural erosion in the future.
"No one wants that to happen, which is why I am making a stand and want to address these issues."
A four-man contest is now shaping up ahead of the A'ana Alofi No.3. election race next April.
The constituency is currently occupied by the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa'i.
But he is not the only opponent Afamasaga Tamanana will have to face.
Another aspiring politician who is well-known in the community for his time in the media industry, Toleafoa Pili Afamasaga, has already registered with the ruling H.R.P.P. to run for the same seat.
Former Member of Parliament, Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, is also throwing his name in the ring to run for the same seat.