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SSIC hears testimony from Papalii Laulii Alofa in Nu’u Fou hearing

Papalii Laulii Alofa following the SSIC hearing
He testifies that lands need to be developed for farming and roads

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Senate Select Investigative Committee on Friday heard firsthand that local businessman Papalii Laulii Alofa was eager to develop the “Nu’u Fou” land for the benefit of the villages that “own” these lands and that’s why he invested in surveying them.

He was accompanied by his lawyer, Aitofele Sunia Jr. This was the fifth SSIC hearing regarding the survey of the Nu’u Fou land that was at the center of criticism by the public last year July, and prompted the hearings.

Samoa News obtained a copy of the survey and description of the lands, which cites close to 400 acres of land surveyed the following acreage: For the of village Aasu, there are 83.75 acres claimed by Fuiava and others; 132.19 acres claimed by Mageo Patolo in Aasu; 107.78 acres claimed by Laulii Alofa in the village of Malaeimi and 68.32 acres claimed by Mauga Tasi Asuega in Fagasa village.

A notice of registration published in Samoa News at the time included the names of Mauga Tasi Asuega, Laulii Alofa, Michael T. Fuiavai; Patolo Mageo and others as claiming “individually owned land” but the notice was later withdrawn by the Office of the Territorial Registrar in late July.  

Papalii testified the lands in questions should be developed for farming and roads over the mountains.

He said for many years his company has been quarrying rock on part of this land and that prompted his interest in developing the land and the survey and the notice of registration followed.

 “This way we can discuss and elaborate potential plans, such as development for farming or access roads over the mountain pass. There was no intention of registering the lands secretly, rather the registration notice was done publicly,” he said.

He said the land behind the mountains needs to be developed for the betterment of the people.

“Me and my family, we don’t need land. We did the survey in efforts to find out if we can build roads behind the mountains for farming developments, but not for me and my family,” said Papalii.

Chairman of the SSIC Togiola T. A. Tulafono said on Friday, that the testimony by the  manager of the Survey Division, Leota Mapesone Laulu, confirmed that $50,000 was paid by Laulii to survey the lands in question.

“It was his testimony that he spoke to you [Papalii] directly regarding this survey of the lands in question.” Togiola then asked Papalii whether the testimony is true, or not.

Papalii confirmed the testimony rendered by Leota in an earlier hearing before SSIC from which the local media was banned.

Togiola further questioned if that is the case in terms of development, why were the lands proposed to be registered under Mauga Tasi Asuega, Laulii Alofa, Michael T. Fuiavai Jr; Patolo Mageo and others?

Papalii explained “they are my friends. I spoke to them about the need to develop these lands and this is where me and my children normally take a walk. And that’s why their names are on the proposal to register these lands, but this was all my doing.”

Laulii said his friends never set foot on the 400 acres in question.

“They relied on what I said about these lands and to be registered in their names,” he said.

The businessman confirmed that he spoke to a lot of people about developing these lands.

“It’s been more than 10 years since we have been doing quarrying work behind our house and from then on, I have been asking who owns the [Nuu Fou] lands,” said Laulii.

Togiola pointed out that before any survey is undertaken a village mayor should have been informed, as stated under local statute this is a requirement for any survey.

The Senator asked why the village mayors were not informed, and Papalii said that is the responsibility of the surveyor.

“[Leota] should have told me that he cannot survey the land without approval from the village mayor, I believe that it is his job to inform the village mayor, not me,” said Papalii.

Adding that he did not understand that it is required by law that for any survey to be conducted the village mayor should be informed.

Togiola asked Papalii whether his “friends” were aware of how much acreage would be registered under their names.

Papalii explained that his “friends" selected their own parcels based on what “they wanted, I did not allocate the acreages to them.” According to Papalii, he then informed the surveyor which acreages would be allocated to which friend.

More from the Nuu Fou SSIC hearing in later editions.