16 May 2013

Concern over effect of Samoa law change on land rights

1:47 pm on 16 May 2013

A retired Samoan lawyer is adamant proposed law changes in Samoa will have a detrimental impact on customary land rights for many Samoans living outside of the country.

Maua Faleauto, who is now living in New Zealand, says the Acts Interpretation Bill 2013 is an affront to many who fall outside a proposed legal definition of a Samoan person, who must be both a Samoan citizen and have a certain percentage of Samoan blood.

He says this bill, coupled with the Torrens system of land registration passed in 2008 requiring the registration of public land, freehold land and customary land leases, is still a worry.

He says these law changes appear geared towards alienating many people's rights and entitlements, while paving the way for the state to allow more foreigners access to customary land.

"Laws do not have to be notified in the government paper or gazetted. Now this is a real worry and an indication of a movement away from democracy, because having of course lived in Samoa myself and looked around to read laws, the laws are really only held by the Attorney General's office or the government. But effectively we are seeing laws being passed that are unconstitutional and are unavailable, largely. Also they are in English. In order to preserve your land rights if your an overseas Samoan, you have to be so aware of what is happening."

Maua Faleauto