Samoa Chiefs fight for land

A group of matai (chiefs) who care deeply about the future of Samoa in terms of maintaining ownership of customary land has stepped up to challenge the all-powerful Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The group, spearheaded by Lilomaiava Ken Lameta, of Vaimoso and Safotu, has filed a letter of complaint against the ADB over a project they say “could alienate 80 per cent of all land in Samoa.”

Other group members include Teleiai Dr. Sapa Saifaleupolu, of Samatau, Fiu Mataese Elisara, of Sili Savai’i and Leulua’iali’i Tasi Malifa, of Afega.

In a letter to ADB dated 19 December 2013, the four men filed a complaint under policies that are supposed to protect “indigenous” people affected by bank projects.

A copy of the letter has been obtained by the Sunday Samoan.

It reads: “This Firm, together with the gentlemen whose names and signatures appear below, wish to submit this letter by way of our complaint of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) work with the Government of Samoa, in alienating Samoan customary lands to be readily available as collateral security for loan mortgage transactions.”

In the complaint, the group points to a 30 per cent default rate on the bank’s own microfinance programme in Samoa – nearly one in three loans.

This is clear evidence, they say, of what could happen if the bank and government build on Phase I and Phase II of the customary land project, and continue to Phase III.


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