Church ministers get pay out from land deal but who else?

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Four church ministers were among those who received money during the ceremony last Saturday when $250,000 was distributed by the Sasina village council.

They each received envelopes containing $4,000. Media representatives who attended the meeting also received envelopes containing $100.

The money comes from the lease of land made by the Sasina village council to an investor from China for growing nonu fruit.

Concerns are being raised about what seems to be a lack of transparency around how the money from the lease payments has been distributed.

The lease was brokered by a member of parliament, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt.

“We saw the opportunity and of course we have long-term plans to utilise our lands as we are the leading landowners in all of Samoa,” he said.

La’aulio said families and church ministers had now been paid their portion of the lease money.

The Samoa Observer reported that La’aulio could not recall the name of the company they made the agreement with.

And RNZ’s correspondent Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia said there had been no transparency around exactly what money people were paid or if everyone in the village got some.

Autagavaia said it’s not the first time this issue has come up.

He said when money was paid out some years ago from another lease of land to an investor based in Hawaii there were a lot of stories about how that money got divided among the families of Sasina.

A Bill has been introduced to parliament which is said to strengthen the provision relating to leasing such land and to facilitate mortgaging while protecting ownership rights.

It has given rise to heated debate in Samoa’s parliament and protest rallies on the island of Savai’i

Eighty percent of land in Samoa was still what’s known as “customary” – owned by the country’s indigenous communities.

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News category: Asia Pacific.

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