Samoa Observer

APIA, Samoa (Aug. 8, 2010) - Two weeks ago Deputy Speaker La’aulialemlietoa Leuatea Schmidt sneaked a callous jab at the Samoa Observer. He told TV viewers he did not know why the paper should keep on poking its nose into land matters it knew nothing about. Well, the MP from Gagaifomauga No 3 is probably right. However this newspaper never advocated it knew anything about land other than reminding people like him Parliament is not the place to cultivate business contacts with the idea of making loads of money from them.

Once before he denied having any financial relations with a foreign company opening a car dealership in Apia; and yet later he admitted he was a shareholder. And now he was responding to criticisms leveled at bold promises of abundant windfalls made by that very articulate and forceful entrepreneur, aptly named Jesse James. In any case whether Mr. James is going to deliver we don’t know. Others before him had made loud promises but failed to deliver.

What we know is that the entrepreneur has been allowed by the government to lease some 500 acres of land at Sasina in Savaii – the Deputy Speaker’s constituency - and he was planning to build glittering Las Vegas there.

But to make such a project feasible he is adamant a Casino at Sasina is imperative; not only does it attract hordes of tourists over it provides juicy employment opportunities to locals as well; which was why Mr. James has reportedly been pushing the government to enact a law approving the establishment of casinos right here in so-called Paradise.

[PIR editor’s note: Sasina is a village in Samoa. It is located inland from the north Coast of Savai’i Island. Population estimation is 1,000 people.]

Well, supposing La’aulialemlietoa’s memory is long enough he will recall that several years ago, a certain Cabinet Minister and a certain Director of Lands and Survey, had conspired to enrich themselves and their cronies by selling prime public land around Apia among themselves for a Tala an acre.

But then luckily for the rest of us some good men were around in those days, so that a public investigation was carried out, the "scheme" was stopped, and no one has been complaining about how land is dispensed of since.

Until now that is; except this time we’re talking about customary land, the type that constitutionally we can’t sell and yet the government is allowing huge tracts of it to be leased for as many years.

Let’s be reminded that when our ancestors arrived in these small islands we are now calling home they did not bring land with them; land was already here and all they had to do then was use them.

In other words land in this country is a gift from God. That was hundreds of years ago. Since then we have been living in one of the very few countries in the world where land is free. However let’s not forget that our population is growing and it will continue to grow. So that if more and more hundreds of acres of land are leased to foreign investors – which is most likely since this is what the government is planning – then eventually we become land-starved and soon there will not be enough land left for people to live on and feed themselves.

This is to say this country needs leaders with caution and foresight; the selfish, narrow-minded and visionless are best kept far away from Parliament.

Look at what some are doing to take ownership of other people’s privately-owned lands. They are manipulating the law to achieve their purpose so that it all appears deliberate, premeditated, wicked.

What about those whose lands have changed ownership without their knowledge or consent? Indeed, don’t public officials ask purported owners to submit their identifications before signatures are committed to paper?

Over the week two families have lost their lands to alleged fraudsters. And since the transference of one land ownership is judged "bona fide," it’s conceivable its rightful owner will never get it back.

It’s an unfair world. Justice is most painful when it becomes the opposite of what it’s supposed to be. And we need to accept this is so or we’re all going to become quite insane.

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

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