Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the government have been told to be alert about the rise of illegal immigrants. The caution came from Members of Parliament on Monday during the discussion of the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016.
Tabled by the Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, on behalf of Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Amendment Act 2004, namely section 7 of the Act to cover second generation Samoans born outside Samoa whose parent was or grandparent is or was a Samoan citizen at the date of birth.
It also provides for transitional matters to cover applications that are pending with the Ministry awaiting enactment of the Bill.
But the government was warned that the amendment could open the backdoor to illegal immigrants and foreign investors whose motives are not pure.
The M.P. for Salega East, Olo Fiti Vaai was strongly against the proposed changes. Olo said he was extremely concerned about the legislation as it touches an issue at the heart of all Samoans – citizenship.
“I know there are criterias in the investment Citizenship bill but the keyword here is citizenship,” he told Parliament.
“If we allow this, we would be saying yes to all the foreign business people investing in Samoa (and their families).”
But Fiame dismissed Olo’s concerns. She said the Salega M.P. was talking about another legislation, the Citizenship Investment Act.
But Olo insisted.
“My concern is if the Citizenship Investment bill is for foreign investors, this bill will also mean they too will be eligible (for citizenship),” he said.
“Extending it to second generation worries me because if it was for Samoan people only, I would say open it, why not? But we are not just talking about Samoans. We are talking about foreigners who will become citizens through their investments and the like.”
During an interview with the Samoa Observer outside Parliament, Olo pointed out that there is a lot more to the bill than what is being debated.
He explained that the Citizenship Amendment Act is a “backdoor” used by foreigners who are entering the country and securing citizenship through the Citizenship Investment Act.
“That is why they will not allow the bill to only cover those with full blooded Samoans or 50 percent half cast,” said Olo.
“That is the danger to this word Samoa citizenship. Under the Citizenship Investment Act, only the applicant and his or her spouse and immediate family can get citizenship.
“Once they get that under the Investment Act they can move to this backdoor and use the Citizenship bill to bring in their descendants going back to first and second generations.
“There is coming a time when all these foreigners will take up all our land. When that happens and when they occupy our country, we will then move to the mountains to live because we don’t have the money to compete with them. These people will buy all our land and take up the businesses. That’s my concern.”
Olo also joked that perhaps the scrap between the Prime Minister and his former Minister of Finance, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga made some sense.
“I think this is what Faumuina was trying to tell Tuilaepa,” said Olo.
“Faumui was simply reminding Tuilaepa that we should develop Savai’i and prepare it for us to move there while the Asians take over Apia and turn it into their little Asian town in the Pacific.”
Back in Parliament, the Associate Minister of Communications and M.P. for Faleata West, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, also expressed reservations about the Bill.
He said citizenship is something all Samoans are entitled to – regardless of where they stay.
“Any person born from a Samoan whether it’s from 1800 or 1900 they have the right to be citizen of Samoa,” said Leala.
“The problem here is we are giving citizenship to people who are not true Samoans and this point needs to be reconsidered.
“If the bill had suggested that citizenship is for Samoan people only, that would be good. I have an issue when it comes to Samoan citizenship being given to any person whether they are Indians, Chinese or wherever they are from in the world. This needs to clarified to protect the sacredness of our citizenships.”
Leala shared Olo’s concerns about illegal immigrants.
“I’m reading an article in the Island Business about China in the Pacific,” he said.
“I’m not against Chinese but it’s something to look at, the views about the flood of Chinese in the Pacific and other illegal migrants in our country.”
The Associate Minister said the bill needs to be worded carefully to protect Samoan people.
Leala also made reference to expats who have resided in Samoa for years and have contributed to our economy, yet they cannot hold citizenship because it is such an expensive exercise. He said this should also be reconsidered.