Former Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 24 APRIL 2018: The former Attorney General, Tuatagaloa Ming Leung Wai cannot divulge any legal advice or conversation he had with former Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi regarding the Land and Title Registration Act 2008.
When asked for a comment on Tui Atua’s claim regarding the concern he raised over the Act ten years after he signed the law, Tuatagaloa said he could not divulge any legal advice given to the Head of State then.
“So sorry, but whatever legal advice that I may have given during my time as Attorney General can’t be disclosed due to solicitor-client privilege,” responded Tuatagaloa.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi claimed that Tui Atua never expressed any concern about the legislation then. Ten years after, Tui Atua is talking publicly about his concerns implying that he may have been ill advised. The issue is at the forefront of a pressure group – SISG, now holding peaceful marches and public meetings to raise the issue with the public in the villages. They are pushing for the LTRA 2008 to be repealed.
Tui Atua was promoted as the speaker at the groups public meeting in Savaii two weeks ago, but he later withdrew saying he never accepted an invitation to speak. Tui Atua spoke about his concerns in a press conference last week.
He claimed that he did raise his concerns with the Attorney General then hence a letter of assurance the AG wrote to him in 2008.
Where is love?
The theme of his speech to the media was, “Where is love?” derived from the preamble of Samoa’s Constitution which talks “unashamedly about love” that “our forebears recognised that they must preserve what makes us unique as a people.”
Tui Atua believes there is ambiguity in the wording of Article 102 of the Constitution, and that this ambiguity is being negatively exploited.
Article 102 of the Constitution: “No alienation of customary land – It shall not be lawful or competent for any person to make any alienation or disposition of customary land or of any interest in customary land, whether by way of sale, mortgage or otherwise howsoever, nor shall customary land or any interest therein be capable of being taken in execution or be assets for the payment of the debts of any person on his decease or insolvency:
Provided that an Act of Parliament may authorise:
(a) The granting of a lease or licence of any customary land or of any interest therein;
(b) The taking of any customary land or any interest therein for public purposes.
“The provisions of the Land Titles Registration Act 2008 have raised significant doubt and controversy over Article 102’s ability to meet its constitutional promise of protecting customary land against alienation,” said Tui Atua.
He argued that the ambiguity that exists within the Article has the potential to create a dangerous platform by which the effective alienation of customary lands can be enabled.
“In this new paradigm we see the introduction of laws where instead of the Pule of a Sa’o being dependent on the love and support of the supporting family or village members, the Sa’o is capable of exercising authority quite independently from them. In the fa’a Samoa this is wrong,” said Tui Atua.
He said as a nation, Samoa has a sacred duty to put personal and political biases aside, so that people can work together to achieve the balance, and protection desired by the Constitution between economic and environmental sustainability, for all families and villages and retaining the cultural integrity of the fa’a Samoa, to protect customary lands against alienation.