ANGRY FAMILY STOPS PNG ROAD-WIDENING PROJECT

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Claim wrong dispersal of compensation money

By Marieta Heidi Ilalio

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Mar 2, 2009) - A family has brought the road widening project in parts of Vaimoso to an abrupt halt over claims of wrongful dispersal of compensation money.

Members of Manuleleua Samasei’a’s family stopped construction work at 9:30 a.m. last Friday.

Family spokesperson Dr. Sonny Lameta said the reason is simple.

Their extended family hasn’t agreed on a head of their family or Sa’o to whom compensation checks for land should be paid to, Dr. Lameta said. But already compensation checks have been distributed to family members, he said.

Their family owns three sections of land which would be affected by the road project.

"These lands are not owned by an individual," he said.

"It’s owned by whoever the extended family decides to be the sa’o."

Dr. Lameta, a university lecturer, said a ruling from the Land and Titles Court ordered that all these three sections of land belonged to the Manuleleua family and road construction will be on halt unless a head of their family has been chosen.

This was explained in a letter to the ACEO of the Land Management Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, last September, he said.

But Dr. Lameta said the following month he learned compensation checks had been given to two members of their extended family.

This wasn’t right, he said, because the ruling from the court was that only the Sa’o has authority over their family land.

Compensation for land is not for an individual, but for the extended family of Manuleleua under the authority of the Sa’o, he said.

"We will not change our decision (to halt road construction) until the Ministry (MNRE) writes to us and say that what they did was wrong, and that they will replace all the money paid to these people."

"We want a right answer from the Land Management Division (of MNRE) on why they gave out the money to these people."

Dr. Lameta also said that he wrote to the Minister of Works, Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau for an explanation of why the money was released.

"I wrote to him last October, and up until now I’m still waiting for an answer."

 

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