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“He signed the law,” Acting P.M. hits back at former Head of State

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Minister and and Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau in a  2012 Samoa News file photo. [Samoa News]

Apia, SAMOA — The Acting Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, has issued a very brief response to concerns expressed by the former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua, about customary lands and Samoa’s land laws.

“He signed the law,” Fiame said. 

“I don’t know what more to say other than I have no comment.”

She did not elaborate.

In a public address last week, His Highness Tui Atua warned that the wording of Article 102 of the Constitution is ambiguous. He fears that this could be negatively exploited and could lead to the alienation of customary lands.

The law Fiame is referring to is the Land Titles Registration Act 2008, which was signed into law by Tui Atua when he was the Head of State. 

Last week, His Highness Tui Atua said he was assured by the Office of the Attorney General that the Land Titles Registration Bill (L.T.R.) 2008 would not alienate customary lands.

His Highness Tui Atua said he had asked for clarity on the matter when he was given the L.T.R. Bill 2008 to sign. The advice was given in a letter from former Attorney General, Aumua Ming Leung Wai.

“In 2008 as Head of State, I was assured by the Attorney General that the provisions of the L.T.R. Bill would not impact in any way on the customary land rights of suli,” Tui Atua said.

 “The Attorney General and his or her office is tasked with a sacred duty to provide the Head of State with the best legal advice possible.”

It was with this assurance that Tui Atua signed the bill. Asked for a copy of the letter from the former A.G., Tui Atua said he could not find it.

Aumua has reportedly told the media that the advice he issued at the time is confidential and could not be released.

During a media event at Tuaefu, Tui Atua said there is “ambiguity” in Article 102 of the Constitution that needs to be dealt with. 

“Today we have the responsibility of admitting that there is a problem with Article 102; that the ambiguity within is serious enough to warrant the attention of our best minds in order to make Article 102 unambiguous,” he said. 

 “These minds, however, must be able to locate the principle of alofa in their custom law and statutory law assessments and have it sing in harmony alongside their assessments of pule, and of legal certainty and transparency.”

Read more at Samoa Observer