The Chairman Samoa Public Service Commission (P.S.C), Tuu’u Dr. Ietitaia Taule'alo, has rejected reports he has issued a blanket ban on all public servants from attending the Samoa Solidarity International protest march this Saturday.
“I have not issued any order to stop any public service employee from taking part in the proposed march on Saturday or any other march,” Tuu’u said in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.
“In fact the first I heard about it was last Thursday when my wife asked me based on Facebook reports.”
The reports in question claimed that the Chairman had issued a warning to all public servants that they will be punished if they are marching.
Other social media reports accused the Chairman of threatening public servants against sharing materials posted by Ole Palemia and other anti-government bloggers on social media.
Tuu’u strongly rejected the reports saying they are not true.
He said public servants have the freedom to choose what they want to do.
“Staff of the public service can attend any march or event they choose,” he said.
“If it is an official event then they can participate on full pay.
“For other cases, staff can apply for annual leave or leave without pay to attend.”
The protest march, led by Samoa Solidarity International on December 16, 2017, is against what they claim as the illegal land reform law, Land Torrens Registrations Act 2008.
The S.S.I. claims the law was passed in violation of the Samoa Constitution by removing the constitutional prohibition against customary land alienation.
Last week, prominent lawyer and one of the organisers, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, said the march is an awareness-raising initiative to help Samoans realise that their customary lands could be affected by the use of leases to secure loans and mortgages.
She warned that ownership might shift to mortgagees or lenders under the terms of lending.
“We believe our customary lands are not safe and that a change to use customary land leases as securities for loans etc. is a breach of articles 102 of the Constitution of Samoa and that being so requires a referendum of two thirds of the majority of voters,” she said.
“It's very concerning that the same laws as the L.T.R.A. 2008 was introduced in New Zealand and left Maoris poor and deprived against palagi (Europeans) and foreign ownership.
“It took at least 150 years for Maoris fighting in court to get some of its customary lands back. The same laws made Aborigines the first people of Australia, poor.
“The same damn law made the Hawaiians poor to the point they are now homeless in their own country of Hawaii while big companies, palagi, Saina (Chinese), Filipinos etc., are richer by comparison.”
The Police has granted a permit for the protest.
The Ministry of Police has also called on members of the public to report any unlawful activities concerning the march.
The approval of the permit was a result of three letters and a personal visit by Unasa to the Police Station.
According to the public announcement, the area of the road that will be affected is from the Vaisigano Bridge in front of Sheraton Aggies Hotel to the Parliamentary House at Malae o Tiafau at Mulinuu.
“There is possibility of traffic congestion and the public is advised to avoid the road affected if possible in order to allow the undisturbed movement of traffic and to let the peaceful march to proceed to their destination as smooth as possible.
“The police will be present in numbers to ensure that all necessary actions within the law are provided for the safety of both participants of the march and the general public,” says the announcement.