30 Oct 2002

Samoan MP says local chiefs should decide on whether to allow new churches

12:44 pm on 30 October 2002

A Samoan MP says a local council of chiefs should have the right to decide whether new churches can be established in their village.

Leao Dr Tuitama says he supports a decision by the council of chiefs at Samamea village in his district of Va'a O Fonoti in which they refused to allow a new church to be established.

He says this is not a ban on the freedom to practise religion because villagers can worship elsewhere.

Leao says there may need to be changes to the constitution to make clear the differences between traditional rights and the law.

"It's becoming a very confusing issue here because of the constitutional rights versus traditional rights. The constitution is the law of the land at present but it is not well defined in there beacuse both the rights of religion and also the right for taditional practice are in the constitution, and they are not very well defined and : properly demarcated."

Meanwhile, Leao says another council of chiefs from Saleimoa village is to appeal against a court decision which stated that it had the right to ban the setting up of a new church but not to banish the churchgoers.

The court told the council that the churchgoers should be allowed back into the village.