Samoa Explores National Board To Protect Heritage Sites

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Demolition of Apia court house prompts calls for preservation

By Apulu Lance Polu

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, July 3, 2012) – The Samoa Law Reform Commission is currently seeking input from the community about ways that Samoa can establish a National Heritage Board to protect national heritage sites in Samoa.

The Commission’s Inquiry comes in response to a request from the Prime Minister, Honourable Tuilaepa Malielegaoi, that the Commission examines the feasibility and appropriateness of setting up a National Heritage Board (‘NHB’) to preserve Samoa’s various national heritage sites.

The Executive Director of the Samoa Law Reform Commission, Ms. Leilani Tuala Warren, says that this Inquiry is timely.

"Recent cases show that the community is very interested in ensuring that national heritage sites receive appropriate protection. After the relocation of the Courts to a new building in Mulinu’u in 2010, the threat to pull down the old Court House in Apia motivated concerned citizens to form a group to lobby for its preservation. More recently, the demolition of the Fale Fono or Freedom House in Mulinu’u, prompted mixed reactions from the public, with many Samoans feeling that the building represented an integral part of Samoa‘s history," she said.

While there are a number of laws and policies that cover aspects of heritage protection, there is no single body responsible for identifying and protecting national heritage sites.

The Commission’s Discussion Paper, released this week, asks whether Samoa should establish a National Heritage Body and what role and responsibilities it should have.

The Commission has identified three different functions that a NHB could potentially perform. One option is that a NHB could operate like a National Trust and own and operate significant heritage sites. Another option is that the NHB plays a stronger regulatory role, and actually makes decisions about which sites should be protected from damage or demolition. A third option is for the NHB to have an advisory role, working with the community to identify and manage important heritage sites. It may be that a NHB could do a combination of these things.

Ms. Tuala Warren stated that "The Commission is not in favor of any particular model at this time and we are conscious of the need to balance the protection of national heritage with Samoa’s continuing growth and development and infrastructure needs. We hope that the issues raised in the Discussion Paper will initiate debate in the community and encourage all people interested in this issue to provide feedback to the Commission so its recommendations can take account of the views of all Samoans."

The Samoa Law Reform Commission was established in 2008 as an independent body. It was established to review and reform the laws of Samoa to ensure that the laws meet Samoa’s modern needs. The Commission undertakes independent research, and consults with the community before making recommendations to the Prime Minister.

The Commission will be holding a number of public consultations over the coming week to discuss this Inquiry. Public consultations will be held in Upolu and Savai’i.

The Commission also encourages people to send written submissions on the issues raised in the Inquiry. The closing date for submissions is 23 July 2012.

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