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  • Sāmoa
  • Iati Iati (bio)

The opposition to the Road Transport Reform Act 2008 continued during the current review period. In July 2008, Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau announced that sections 4 to 7 of the act would come into force on 7 September 2009. Currently, vehicles are driven on the right-hand side of the road. Sections 4 to 7 provide for changing the driving side of the road to the left, including prohibiting the use of left-hand drive vehicles unless they were in Sāmoa before the law stopping their importation was brought into effect. The government also declared 7 and 8 September 2009 as public holidays in order to "allow for familiarization with the change" (Ah Mu and Lesa 2008).

The protest movement People Against Switching Sides (PASS) took court action against the government, filing a claim against the prime minister, cabinet, and the Transport Control Board arguing that the act was constitutionally invalid. PASS's statement of claim was later discontinued by consent, and its motion withdrawn. However, PASS was granted leave to file a second amended motion by 19 January 2009 (Sāmoa Observer, 20 Dec 2008). PASS has thus far achieved some measure of success with its court case against the government. On 26 June 2009, Judge Vui Clarence Nelson ruled in the supreme court that the constitutionality of the act deserves to be examined in court. He overruled a submission by the attorney general, Aumua Ming Leung Wai, that there was no case for the government to answer. The two sides, PASS and the government, are set to reappear in court on 6 July 2009 to determine the date for the hearing (Sioa 2009a). The groundswell of opposition to the reforms spawned a new political party, the People's Party, which was officially launched in October 2008. Those involved in PASS were influential in its creation, and the PASS chairman, Maposua Toleafoa Punafelutu R S Toailoa, was elected the party president (Ah Mu 2008e).

The opposition to the Land Titles Registration Act 2008 also continued in the current review period. In July 2008, the leader of the Sāmoa Democratic United Party (SDUP), Asiata Sale'imoa Va'ai, vowed to challenge the law on the grounds that it was unconstitutional (Sāmoa Observer, 3 July 2008). By the end of the current review period, the case had not reached the courts. A number of nongovernment organizations (NGOS): O Le Siosiomaga Society (OLSSI), and Sāmoa Umbrella for Non-government Organisations (SUNGO), continued to publicly voice their opposition to the act. OLSSI went even further and held consultations with villages in Savai'i who wanted to oppose the implementation of the act (Rose 2008). The letters to the editor section of the Sāmoa Observer continued to carry letters of opposition to the act, from people in both Sāmoa and New Zealand. Despite the opposition, the government announced that the new act and new registration system would come into force on 2 March 2009.

The government's decision to proceed with the act is significant given the sensitive nature of land issues, which was evident in a number of land disputes that took place during the current review period. In September 2008, the court of appeal dismissed [End Page 191] an appeal by the matai (traditional leaders) of the village of Vailoa in Palauli against a supreme court ruling that denied them ownership of an area of land in their village. Despite the fact that the land under question was customary, the supreme court ruled that ownership of the land had been legally transferred to various other parties, including the current owner, O F Nelson Properties Ltd of Apia (Sia'aga v O F Nelson Properties Ltd [2008] WSCA 14, 19 Sept 2008). Vailoa respected the court's ruling in this case.

A number of land disputes involve customary lands that the government wants to utilize. For example, tensions brewed between the government and the Manuleleua family of Vaimoso over the failure of the government to respect the family's customary land practices. The problems occurred when the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment failed to appropriate land...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 191-202
Launched on MUSE
2010-02-21
Open Access
No
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