Activist accuses Govt. of propaganda, misleading public

An environmental activist has accused the Government of misleading the public, and promoting propaganda in connection to customary land, as part of their election campaign.

The Director of Ole Siosiomaga Society (O.L.S.S.I.), Fiu Mataese Elisara, makes the claim in an opinion piece he wrote for the Samoa Observer, saying it is difficult to ignore what he noted as concerning efforts by the Government to mislead voters about the security of customary lands.  

A matai of Sili, Fiu he pointed specifically to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

“In this critical time with political uncertainty in Samoa heading to national elections it is difficult for some of us who have engaged for a decade to maintain decorum or ignore concerning efforts by government attempting to mislead voters about security of our customary lands,” Fiu said.

“The television propaganda by M.N.R.E. in the last month or so alleging falsely that customary lands continue to be protected and secured under the Constitution is hard to ignore.

“Specifically, they quote the seven (7) rights accrued to beneficiary customary land owners under Section 2 of the Leasing and Licensing of Customary Lands Amendment Act 2019 (LLCLA) which amends the Principal Alienation of Customary Lands Act 1965 (ACLA).”

Fiu pointed out that this effort is misleading considering the Minister continues to approve leases of customary lands as a Trustee and beneficial owners.

He made reference to the recent case between customary land leased at Lefaga to the Return to Paradise Resort.

According to the verdict of that case, Fiu said the Supreme Court (S.C.) decision rendering the Land and Titles Court ‘not competent’ to decide on customary land leases as it deemed once the Minister signs the customary land leases.

“…They become ‘public land’ leases under Section 11 of the of Alienation of Customary Land Act 1965 (ACLA) removing such leases from Land Titles Court jurisdiction and place these within jurisdiction of the SC subjecting these under the Lands Titles Registration Act 2008 (LTRA),” he said.

He added the decision has far-reaching inter- and intra-generational concerns that our Constitution framers envisioned and caused them to provide specific protection under Articles 102 and 109 of the Constitution prohibiting alienation of customary lands.

“This SC decision is comprehensive and many Samoans have raised legitimate concerns on it which require legal challenge and use of Article 109 of the Constitution amongst other relevant Articles to void it,” he said.

The result and language used in the SC decision under ‘Comptent Court‘ is immensely concerning and believe disastrous to Samoans in relation to issues of customary land ownership...“

Furthermore, Fiu argued that the Leasing and Licencing of Customary Lands Act 2019 continues to fail the concerns on Constitutional prohibition on alienation of customary lands.

He concluded that they continue to raise concerns about the ongoing government propaganda on television and other mediums about customary land being protected from alienation under the Constitution.

“In our view, these efforts are misleading and unlawful based on the reasons given above,” he said.

It was not possible to get a comment from the Government at press time.

Fiu's opinion is published on page 12 of Monday's Samoa Observer.

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