9 Jan 2019

ADB seeks to improve customary land use in Samoa

5:03 am on 9 January 2019

The head of the Asian Development Bank says his institution supports the existence and protection of customary land in Samoa.

ADB President Takehiko Nakao is in Samoa for a three day visit.

Both the Samoa government and the ADB have been criticised for promoting the economic use of customary land and the creation of a more structured registration system of title.

ADB President Takehiko Nakao, (left), and Samoa PM Tuila'epa

ADB President Takehiko Nakao, (left), and Samoa PM Tuila'epa Photo: RNZ Pacific /Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

This culminated with legal action against the Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi over the Government's Land Titles Registration Act.

But Mr Nakao said the ADB did not want to infringe on the rights of land owners.

"In many countries, land is the most important property for people and customary land is a long tradition for the country," he said.

"So how to make better use of land without impeding traditions of customary land. There is no such idea to damage the use of customary land or impede ownership of customary land."

Mr Nakao said the ADB was simply trying to improve land use.

"How to use land better and how to have a better registration system so that there will be less dispute of land boundaries, that is our purpose.

"So I hope that the people understand why we do it, it is not to infringe on the rights of customary land."

The ADB President appeared in a joint press conference alongside Prime Minister Tuila'epa.

Tuila'epa downplayed the presence of a small group of protesters, saying he didn't know why there were people standing outside in the rain.

He said since the country had become independent, no customary land had been sold.