How should Samoans define prosperity in the 21st Century?
By Voney Fuimaono
The digital age has meant instant gratification via the internet of almost any possible want known to man in terms of transactions, information and processing. This platform that allows immediate communication is a symptom as well as enabler of ever globalised and increased volumes of trade. Increased trade means increased business- increased business reflects rising levels of economic activity- rising levels of economic activity generally equals wealth, either as a nation or as an individual.
Samoa, and Samoan people have not been immune to the benefits of globalization and indeed many Samoans can be rightly described as wealthy. Not so for the majority of other Samoans. For the lucky minority who had managed to properly harness their individual/collective family group skills and talents over decades or even more- congratulations. I take off my hat to you for your success. You are a credit to our pacific island ancestors. However, it is noteworthy that none of our Samoan forefathers were actually born into wealth, fortune, selective education or even into an English speaking environment for that matter.
I say this with confidence simply because Samoa as the history buffs would know had its own history, its own language, its own culture- its own unique identity long before those European ships came to port in Samoa those many years ago. Our forefathers measured wealth through beautifully hand woven ietoga and success through how many sons (and daughters) we were able to leave behind as our legacy and continuation of our royal and proud pacific lineage. ‘Intelligent’ and ‘smart’ were words we would afford to orators of remarkable wit and wisdom- not to a suited up ‘lawyer’ (no offence to our Samoan lawyers) with a piece of paper bearing Latin inscriptions of academic classroom ability.
Hats off to the actual lawyers, doctors, engineers, scientists and modern day leaders our great country has produced to date HOWEVER not all our Samoan sisters and brothers have had the ability, opportunity or fortune to be thus certified. In fact, many of our brethren are still living under the same conditions our forefathers did- they still live in thatched open houses, still cook and clean the way Samoans did ‘back then’, their lives revolve around faalavelave and their greatest worry is their family’s next meal.
Why am I raising this topic?
Because with the increased prosperity and success some of us have been fortunate enough to enjoy-comes a distinctive disparity between the haves and have nots not just in capability but in attitude. In developed countries such as the USA there is an economic measure of the gap between the rich and poor. That’s normal because the USA is a country largely of migrants and there is no natural common ethnicity of the people. Samoa? Different story.
We are a country with a single majority ethnicity- Samoan. Our forefathers ALL lived in thatched open houses, they ALL cooked their food in an underground oven and not a single one of them spoke a lick of English, had a ‘fale palagi’ or went to conventional school. Moral of the story?
Don’t look down on your Samoan brothers and sisters just because you were educated at an elite school, own countless acres of property, drive a V8 engine car, earn copious amounts of money through your family run business/salary paying job etc. We should thank the Almighty God for his blessings on us his children then look to help our people and pull them up so they too can be successful. We should not look down on them and think we are ‘better’ or have more class/money/wealth. As soon as you start thinking you are a better than the next Samoan due to worldly success- as soon as you think you are ‘too good’- think back to our history as a people- there was no segregation of our beloved Samoa back then- don’t let ours be the generation to start segregating Samoa now.
Just a thought. Faavae ile Atua Samoa. Blessed week everyone.
#Samoaunited is the movement uniting Rugby Players from around the world against a decrepit SRU.
By Albert Ainuu
More teams from around the world, most featuring star Samoan players, have joined the movement against the Samoan Rugby Union and the Prime Minister Tuilaepa, who is the Chairman of the SRU. This has developed in a very short period of time following the All Blacks photo posted by Sonny Bill Williams showing solidarity with the Manu Samoa Players last Wednesday. #Samoaunited is now the byline for the movement that is growing daily with more professional athletes joining in the protest.
According to Dan Leo, the Manu Samoa player who has by default become the focal point of this protest movement, the real reason for their threatened boycott against England, a game which is to be played this weekend, they were still dealing with a very incompetent and corrupt regime running the SRU. They had made their concerns public when Manu Samoa was set to play in the last Rugby World Cup. They were distraught that after 3 years there was no change in the way the SRU were operating. The same individuals who had been responsible for the fiasco in New Zealand were still in command. The same modus operandi was in play. They had thought they were going to find some improvement, but alas, that was not the case. If anything it had gotten worse.
The threat was made in the hopes that it would stir up a resolve in the SRU and the government of Samoa to make changes which the players were imploring them to make for the benefit of future of Rugby in Samoa. They were instead accused of being "spoilt" children, their characters were assassinated by the Prime Minister who is the Chairman of the SRU when he publicly attacked them in the media. Acting like a petulant egomaniac, Tuilaepa lambasted these players accusing them of trying to hold the Manu Samoa hostage in order to increase their salaries. He also accused them of being disrespectful and unappreciative for the opportunity they were blessed with to represent Samoa. It touched off a firestorm of public ire and support on online forums and websites catering to Samoans, including Facebook groups: Palemene o Samoa and Samoa Speaks.
At first it was rather even, the range of comments in support of the players and those who supported the Prime Minister and the SRU. But as more information came out the players motivation became clear that they were not trying to increase their pay as accused of by the Prime Minister, although that would be nice, but more importantly they were incensed that this was more of the same from the 2011 World Cup. They had made no progress, the situation was still not designed for success and that this was going to be just another rerun of the last episode.
The players were looking at the big picture. They had played in professional clubs from around the world. They know what a real union should act like. They had worked with real Rugby officials in major nations from England to New Zealand. They also knew that what the Samoan Rugby Union was doing was counterproductive for Rugby in Samoa. It was a dead end and they were not going to just lie down and take it. But they were being ostracized by the leader of the Samoan nation. The Prime Minister himself was attacking them.
And then a little tweet emerged.
All Blacks players, Sonny Bill Williams, Jerome Kaino and many of the Samoan players for the number one rugby team in the world tweeted a picture of them holding a handmade poster with hashtag "#Samoaunited" This tweet changed the landscape. The Wallabies responded a day later with their own tweet and picture of players from Australia holding their own poster #Samoaunited. Then the floodgates opened and teams from Ireland, France and England all posted their own pictures on Twitter with the same message #Samoaunite was posted. It was confirmation that the brotherhood of professional sports are nothing to be taken lightly.
These are players who are playing at the pinnacle of the sport. They have been catered to by the most financially stable organizations in Rugby. They are respected in circles where only the elite are allowed. They have seen the operation of a world class organization in action. And they are only trying to raise the level of Samoan's Rugby Union to some level of competency because they have seen how important this is to the success of the team.
Talent can only take you so far. The Coaching, the training staff, the team officials and the Union officials all play a major part in the success of a program or Rugby team. These realities are played out in front of these Samoan players every season they pay for these top quality teams in the world's most lucrative Rugby markets. they see how much money can be made for players and the Union alike. But they have to come to Samoa and witness the level of competency of their own people and they are disheartened. Especially when they understand that all the talent in the world will not put Samoa on top of the Rugby ratings. Its a team effort with Business, Coaching and Players all working together.
This is what the Manu Samoa players are fighting for. Sadly this is what the SRU and the Prime Minister are fighting against.
Subtle Customary Land Law changes raise fears of Alienation
The President of O le Si'osi'omaga Society Incorporated (O.L.S.S.I.), Fiu Mataese Elisara, has warned against “hidden” changes to land laws, which he says risks customary rights being “sidewinked.”
The warning follows the set up of the Customary Land Advisory Commission – with a legally set role for Commissioners to be “good advocates” for the “economic use” of customary lands.
But Fiu says the government is using the new commission to also pass an amendment to the Alienation of Customary Land Act of 1965.
He points out that the 1965 Act was intended to promote the desires and best interests of customary land owners.
He is worried, however, about the new development, saying his “prime concern” is that those interests are being “sidewinked.”
Incorporating “for the first time” economic use of customary land, the new 2013 Act “succeeds remarkably” in legalising customary land alienation, said Fiu.
“And that, without doubt, is invariably the latest and hidden purpose in these laws,” he said.
Attorney General, Aumua Ming Leung Wai, defended the bill, saying there was no conflict between the commission’s ‘advisory’ role, and that of being an ‘advocate’ for economic use of customary land.
“We certainly don’t want to appoint a person to be a Commissioner who does not believe in the economic use of customary land,” said Aumua.
“This will defeat the purpose why the C.L.A.C. was created.”
His full comments are carried in full as part of a separate response, as follows.
For his part, Fiu detailed his concerns about the commission.
“First, we worry because the responsible Minister has the power to lease or license customary lands as trustee for customary land owners, and is likely, as in all such ministerial authority, to compromise and or abuse, and or even act politically than in the best interest of those customary land owners.
“He is not obligated legally to discuss a decision he makes in respect of use of customary land with the owners of the lands affected, as ‘... in his opinion’, he can grant such lease or licence or any interest therein.”
A law for the new Commission was passed in April last year. It is an “An Act to establish the Customary Land Advisory Commission to encourage, facilitate and promote greater economic use of customary land for the purpose of enhancing the social, cultural, economic and commercial development of Samoa and for related purposes.”
O.L.S.S.I. is focused on a “consequential amendment” that is the last of 15 sections under the Commission Act, and amends Section 4 of the Alienation of Customary Land Act 1965. It grants new powers, to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, affecting “customary” land, rather than just the “freehold” land as previously covered by Section 4.
Fiu acknowledges that the power of the minister is not his alone.
“His opinion must be in accordance with Samoan custom and usages, or the desire and interests of the beneficial owners of the land or interest.
“Therefore and since Samoan customs is not his alone, and or by himself, that opinion necessarily must be of all Samoa.
“And however subjective that Ministerial opinion shall come to be, it is still of all Samoans, and therefore cannot reasonably pass constitutional muster and scrutiny.” Being unconstitutional, the law is flawed, indicated Fiu.
“It follows the grant of such lease or licence or interest therein shall become purely political that of course, the Minister shall fall back onto.”
Fiu said that the changes to the land laws have come about due to pressure from A.D.B., the Asian Development Bank, to open up customary lands for economic use.
A.D.B. officials have made loans and grants conditional on the changes going ahead, he said. In fact, much of the language for the new Commission is “copied and pasted” from A.D.B project documents, said Fiu.
“Our understanding is C.L.A.C. was created in this way based on technical advice from the A.D.B. as part of Project 41173.
“It was paid for directly by the A.D.B.
“According to the A.D.B. documents, it helped prepare the strategy and goals, develop the terms of reference that helped select the three person commission members and other staff.
And the goal is to “...encourage, facilitate and promote greater economic use of customary land...” – the same language as the C.L.A.C, he said.
“It must be clearly understood that there is no mandate for C.L.A.C. to give advice to the contrary even if in their seven years of ‘...encouraging, facilitating, and promotion ...’, it finds there is good reason to caution and advise Cabinet against the use of customary lands for ‘economic‘ development.
The A.D.B., said Fiu, “tends to justify itself by saying that the Cabinet endorsed this action in 2009 when it presented some reports to them and that they are just acting by virtue of the ‘Strategy of Samoa’ published by the Ministry of Finance.”
Changing Samoan land law, however, was a condition for further lending by A.D.B. to the financial sector; and the Ministry of Finance will likely have been rejected further loans if this was not done, as set out by a 1998 policy document.
“It seems that the language in the so-called ‘Strategy of Samoa’ initially appeared in an A.D.B. document, copied and pasted into the Ministry of Finance Strategy,” said Fiu. “It is also interesting to see that the C.L.A.C. was passed only in April last year, 2013, when work on the economic use of customary land was already well under way.”
A.D.B. has not released any subsequent reports that state exactly who worked on these projects, he said.
“But we understand it is likely to be of the two representatives of consulting company, Vinstar Consulting, who of course, helped draft the land registry and other laws on this project for the ADB.”
The question is, he asked, was there local “anchorage” in terms of Samoan advice given to these consultants, and if there was, how were the people of this country informed and were they consulted?
O le Siosiomaga Society has been a long time critic of changes to customary land laws, warning that generations of tomorrow risk losing access to lands for a few loans and grants today.
Meanwhile, the “consequential amendment” to the Alienation of Customary Land Act 1965 reads:
15. Consequential amendment - Section 4 of the Alienation of Customary Land Act 1965 is amended:
(a) by renumbering the current provision as section 4(1);
(b) by adding the following new subsections:
“(2) For the avoidance of doubt, an interest in the lease or licence of customary land that the Minister can grant by subsection (1) includes a mortgage of the interest of the lessee or licensee.
(3) The process of registration and discharge of mortgages in the Land Titles Registration Act 2008 applies to the registration and discharge of such mortgages.
(4) Nothing in this Act may be construed or implied:
(a) to permit the alienation or disposition of customary land in a manner prohibited by Article 102 of the Constitution; or
(b) to permit or deem ownership in any customary land to vest in a person otherwise than as determined under any law dealing with the title to customary land.”
Citizenship is a birthright in U.S. territories
Do remittances equal voting rights for overseas Samoans?
By Mata’afa Keni Lesa
Let’s think about this for a while. The reality is that remittances are the backbone of this country’s existence..
Without which, it would be very difficult to imagine life in Samoa today.
Indeed, if those millions of tala sent back from relatives and friends living outside of Samoa to care for their families here were to stop suddenly, many people in this country would not be able to cope with the demands of everyday living.
That’s because the cost of living has become ridiculously expensive while household incomes have not improved by much, if there has been any improvement at all during the past couple of years.
So remittances – in some cases - become a matter of life and death.
In other words, how would many people cope without it? What would life for many Samoans be like without remittances from New Zealand, Australia, United States, Europe and elsewhere around the world?
It’s a tough question we know but one that’s worth asking.
Mind you, these people do much more than send money. They also send new cars, fridges, TV sets, food, containers of furniture and in some cases building materials for new homes.
It’s not that they are loaded with cash and material wealth. Absolutely not.
We, the people living in Samoa, should be mighty grateful because the reality for most of our overseas relatives is a lot different than the rosy picture of people living on the ‘land of milk and honey’ as we’ve been told over the years.
For many of them, they are struggling to get by. On top of that, they too have obligations to the countries they live in. That includes children to feed, clothe and schooled, bills to pay and dreams to be fulfilled.
And yet we find that they sacrifice a lot of that simply to ensure their families in Samoa don’t go without.
It’s a sacrifice that should not be taken for granted. It should be properly acknowledged, appreciated and reciprocated, however, whenever possible.
And we are talking about more than just saying thank you.
Is that happening in Samoa today? How are we as a country repaying their generosity? Do our laws at least acknowledge their contribution to Samoa?
In the past, every time the issue is brought up; there are people who say that because these brothers and sisters live outside Samoa, they should not be entitled to anything – including the right to vote from where they are based during our elections.
It’s true that it is their choice to live overseas and perhaps by doing so forfeit the benefits of being a resident in Samoa – including voting. But is it really their choice? Would they have shifted to these countries if Samoa offered greener pastures?
We doubt it very much.
Now let’s consider the recent Citizenship Investment Bill 2014. We don’t need to tell you about this piece of legislation anymore.
What we do want to say is that part of the bill will allow any foreigner with four million tala to live in Samoa automatically.
At this point, questions are still being asked about whether that would entitle them to land privileges as well as to be able to vote in the election.
What’s more, should the green light be given so that they become eligible to the privileges that come with being a citizen of Samoa, who is to stop them from running for Parliament, should a Samoan somehow decides to gift them a matai title – as they do these days?
We know the government will dismiss these fears saying nothing of the sort will happen.
That’s fine. We hope so too.
But do they know the future? Do they know what could happen 20 or 50 years from now?
Will they still be around when our children and their children’s children begin to pay the price for what is happening today?
The answer is no.
The irony is that for our people living overseas, it doesn’t matter how many thousands – or millions - of tala they send back home to Samoa.
If they want to vote in the election, they would have to pay the airfares to come here to do that.
This is despite the fact that through technology that’s now available here, the job can easily be done.
We are talking about Samoans born in Samoa.
In many cases, they are matai who are looking after their families – frequenting the airwaves between wherever they are and Samoa every time a fa’alavelave comes up. They still serve their monotaga (contribution) in the villages.
They remain part of the church in the village through their matafale to which they contribute to week in and week out.
So why is the government so stubborn that it would not move to allow what seems to be the fairest and most logical thing to do when it comes to voting?
Consider one more scenario.
Under the Citizenship Investment Bill, a millionaire can basically buy citizenship in no time. And yet an overseas-based matai who wants to be a candidate in the election, who has been contributing to the development of Samoa for years, will have to come and stay in Samoa for at least three years to be able to do that? It just does not make sense.
What’s so wonderful about being a Samoan anymore when money is placed above the interests and rights of our people? Will it be fair to say that four million tala by a foreigner is better than a lifetime of tautua along with the rights and privileges of being a Samoan?
Don’t get me wrong. We’ve said this before and we will say it again, the government deserves support for coming up with “innovative revenuegenerating activities” so that foreign companies are attracted to set up businesses here.
We believe that for any country to develop economically and socially, this is vital. And Samoa is no exception. You see, foreign investment, implemented properly using appropriate and culturally sensitive policies, can help boost the economy through the creation of employment opportunities. This in turn brings countless other benefits for the people of the country.
To an extent, the Citizenship Investment Bill 2014 does this.
What’s hard to accept though is the idea that some parts of this bill – including the ones we’ve touched upon here – seem to favour foreigners over Samoans – including the thousands living overseas who are toiling every day for the sake of their families back here in Samoa. What do you think?
Have a peaceful Monday Samoa, God bless!
The Tautua Party has called the 24 per cent drop in exports to New Zealand “ridiculous” saying it is the failure of the Government.
In its latest Foreign Trade Report from August this year, the Central Bank of Samoa reported that this decline was compared to August of last year.
Party leader Palusalue Faapo II says that is “ridiculous after all the resources and all the hard work they have put in.
“That is what I have been saying to them, this is the failure of this Government.
“The exports keep on reducing since they came to power.
“So it reflects what they have been doing with New Zealand is not working.”
He said the reason it is not working is because the Government was focussing on other products outside of the agricultural sector.
He said with so many Samoans living in New Zealand, the Government should dedicate more resources to the sector.
According to the New Zealand 2006 Census 131,103 New Zealanders identified themselves as being of Samoan ethnicity, 50,649 stated they were born in Samoa, and 489 stated they were born in American Samoa.
“Because they (the Government) have been ignoring the agricultural sector for so long this is what is happening,” said Palusalue.
He also raised the question of the Friendship Treaty between the two nations.
He questioned the Governments plan of increasing Samoan exports to other source markets when they cannot increase them to New Zealand.
“How can we expect to export more when New Zealand is supposed to have a very special relationship with us?” he asked.
“All these efforts they are doing is a waste of money, a waste of resources.”
Earlier this month the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters held the ’Gaosia i Samoa’ New Zealand Trade Show at the Mangere Arts Centre in Auckland.
New Zealand is currently hosting the 6th PACER Plus Negotiating Round and associated meetings in Auckland.
PACER Plus is the proposed free trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
The hot topic on the discussion table is labour mobility with Samoa signalling commitments to PACER Plus agreements may be on hold if better outcomes on this issue cannot be reached.
The Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo says it’s about overcoming barriers to trade.
“That’s a bit of the contentious issue from the New Zealand perspective, and Australia, because Australia is also part of PACER Plus,” he said.
“These are the issues we are looking at resolving as soon as possible so that we could better access the markets here in New Zealand and Australia.”
~ With RNZI
“MOVING FORWARD: NATIONAL STRATEGY TO END VIOLENCE”