17 Aug 2018

Samoa First leader aims to stop customary land leasing

9:41 am on 17 August 2018

The newly elected leader of the Samoa First Political Party says she wants to stop the leasing of customary land.

Unasa Iuni Sapolu

Unasa Iuni Sapolu Photo: RNZI/ Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

Leader Unasa Iuni Sapolu will be campaigning to have the Land and Titles Registration Act 2008 removed.

Under the act, Ms Sapolu said the Minister of Natural Resources can lease customary land without the owners having to provide informed consent.

She said this was illegal.

"Who is controlling the land? Obviously the leaseholder who is the Minister [and] has his power been legitimatised by the customary land owners?"

She said the answer was no.

"That move, in my view, is a violation of the constitutional right of the customary land owners."

Some of the leases on the customary land are up to 99 years which could see owners disenfranchised from their land permanently, Unasa said.

"That tie and those bonds will be weakened to the point that Samoan's are not attached to their land, not appreciate the land and they'll be forever fighting to get that land back."

Unasa said she was also looking at changing voting rights so that Samoans overseas could have more say over their customary land.

This may mean a reduction of the time Samoan's have to spend in Samoa in order to vote which is currently 12 months.

Samoa's ruling party, the Human Rights Protection Party has been in power since the 1980s, and holds 47 out of the 50 seats.

Unasa said she was confident that the support behind her was strong enough to challenge the ruling party in the 2021 election.

"It's building up and building up - these marches do crop up from the views of the people in the village - they want to march to show their displeasure with what is happening with their customary land."

"So I'm confident that we have the support because it's them who actually propelled us to establish Samoa First."

She said the party's manifesto won't be released until closer to the election but she gave some indications of what other policies she may campaign on.

She wants to establish an Official Information Act so information about government-owned assets could be made publicly available.

She also intended to stem the flow of foreign money into the country.

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