15 Feb 2007

Samoa government considering changes to customary land laws

10:50 am on 15 February 2007

Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, says families who own many hectares of customary land would benefit financially if their lands could be leased to the business sector.

More than eighty percent of land in the country is customary owned.

The government has completed the first round of talks with members of the public before it moves to amend the Lease of Customary Lands Act.

But several village matais or chiefs and orators who attended two separate public forums have questioned the government's motive behind the move.

Some are worried that the long term lease of land for businesses such as hotels could see the land end up as freehold property.

But the government Attorney General, Ming Leung Wai, has told a public meeting over the issue that customary lands cannot be sold unless a two thirds majority of the population support it through a plebiscite.