Samoa PM Challenged To Release ADB Report

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Matai fear Tuilaepa hasn’t read document properly

By Taina Kami Enoka

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, April 8, 2015) – Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is being challenged to disclose the original Asia Development Bank (A.D.B) report to the public or debate the issue on television.

The challenges were made on Tuesday by four prominent village matai, Fiu Mataese Elisara, of Sili, Leuleuiali’i Tasi Malifa, of Afega, Tele’ai Dr. Sapa Saifaleupolu and Liliomaiava Ken Lemeta of Vaimoso and Safotu.

The A.D.B. report in question was a result of meetings held in Samoa, with village matai over the leasing of customary land for economic gain.

Although it claims to be based on consultations, the four matai filed a complaint to the Office of the Special Project Facilitator in late 2013, saying that it was information sharing and that no consultations were held.

However last week, in the Sunday Samoan, Tuilaepa rejected this, saying that the claim that the consultation process was not thorough, is wrong.

"The consultation has been done and those people who keep digging it up don't understand," he said. "They are probably stirring things up for a personal agenda to get money.

But the group of matai’s spokesman, Fiu believes that the Prime Minister has not read the original A.D.B. report and "we are pleading with him to read it".

"We’re asking the Prime Minister, please read the report. It is contrary to what he is saying. As the Head of Government, he is responsible to read that properly."

The Prime Minister said the problem with the world today is that "there are too many professors."

He added that the group of matai, which has lodged a complaint with the A.D.B. with regards to the economic use of customary land, refuse to understand the process of leasing customary land. But Fiu is adamant that is not the case.

"We want to be very clear that we have struggled to get here. We have taken this on ourselves, of our own accord for the future of our customary lands.

"We are pleading with the Prime Minister to please read the report!"

As for Tuilaepa referring to them as professors, Fiu disagreed.

"We are ordinary people committed to a cause which is protecting the alienation of our customary lands.

The professor is the Prime Minister himself. The Honourable Professor Prime Minister. For us, we are ordinary citizens of this country and we are matai's."

He urged the Prime Minister and government to follow through with the recommendations made by O.S.P.F.

If the O.S.P.F recommendations are not kept, it is expected that A.D.B. will withdraw funding.

"It will be a sad day for Samoa if they stop the funds. If Government does the right thing, there will be a long term impact."

Meanwhile, Fiu said that Tuilaepa has not kept to the agreement made last November during Round Table discussions with O.S.P.F, not to speak with the media on the issue, till the report was out.

"It’s annoying! Whilst we have been complying and kept mum, the Prime Minister has been going freely and talking to the Samoan people and attacking us personally. We need to correct that information for our readers and our country."

Last year, the complaints were investigated by the (O.S.P.F.). A summary of report recently published on the A.D.B. website, has urged Government to engage in "meaningful consultations" with members of the public in relation to its plan to promote the economic use of customary land throughout the country.

It has urged government to ensure that the community is engaged so that the outcome "reflects community needs, views, and aspirations."

The report goes on to say that "not many people in the business community have heard or know about the project and how it can help economic development in Samoa."

The full A.D.B. report on the investigations is yet to be released.

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