Former Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi inspecting the police guard of honour
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – THURSDAY 05 APRIL 2018: The former Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi is not speaking at a public rally in Salelologa, Savai’i on Saturday reportedly on the advice of his family.
The peaceful march is organized by the Samoa Solidarity International Group – SSIG which is protesting the lease and mortgage of customary lands to overseas businesses, claiming that this eventually will lead to the alienation and ultimate loss of customary lands and compares it to what has happened to native owned lands in New Zealand and Hawaii.
The Samoan law that enables the lease of customary lands is the Lands and Title Registration Act signed in 2008 by Tui Atua when he was the Head of State. Earlier this year, he told a conference in New Zealand that he was pressured to sign the law.
This was denied by the Prime Minister who said that as advisor to the Head of State, this concern should have been made known to him by the Head of State.
Earlier this week, SSIG’s leader Unasa Iuni Sapolu posted on her social media page that the former Head of State will speak at the rally. “This announcement has brought great prestige to SSIG’s global march in Savaii,” she wrote. However this was denied by Tui Atua’s office in a Samoa Observer newspaper story yesterday.
The Secretary of SSIG, Afamasaga Tamanana Uelese Tasolo told Talamua last night that he met with Tui Atua at his residence at Tuaefu yesterday about the Savai’i march.
“Tupua wanted to speak at the march,” said Afamasaga. “But because his relatives and family advised him against it, Tupua has decided to call his own press conference next week to address the customary land issue, and will not attend the march,” he said.
The Savaii march is the second peaceful march organized by the Samoa Solidarity International Group on the customary land issue.