An interesting story was published on the front page of the Samoa Observer last week, on 30 September 2016.
Titled “P.M. firm. The land belongs to Govt.”, it was not an entirely new story though.
In fact, it was about that festering dispute between the government and the residents of Sogi over land ownership, so that the matter has actually been in the public domain for quite sometime now.
And now that the Sogi family that is directly involved in the dispute is suing the government claiming the land that’s in the centre of the dispute was rightfully theirs, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi came through surprisingly enough this time as a man on the warpath.
Last week he told the Samoa Observer: “I am not worried about this (lawsuit).”
“Why should I be worried if the land belongs to the government?” he said.
“Another thing, I am not a lawyer. The matter is being handled by the Attorney General.”
“So there is nothing to worry about.”
Wonderful! Nothing to worry about? Now is that so? The question is: Why is he saying there is nothing to worry about if he is absolutely sure he is not worried?
And then as the leader of a country where he is holding near- absolute power over people’s lives, did he really mean it when he said he had nothing to worry about?
He could be right though. Still, if you’ve not yet been told that the Attorney General and his staff could also be referred to as Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s “children”, then don’t start trying to think about any of this now.
Just keep in mind though that the government Prosecutors as well as the Chief of Police, are Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s “children” anyway, so that they have no option at all but to do as he would have told them what to do.
After all, that is what Tuilaepa’s “children” do. They listen to him and they then run ahead and do whatever he’s told them to do, with no questions asked.
Still, it’s the residents of Sogi’s decision to sue the government that is apparently giving Tuilaepa sleepless nights these days.
Which is why it appears he’s determined to see that those residents are relocated to Falelauniu, a place where most of them have never been before anyway.
And yet those residents are now fighting back; indeed, they are adamant that they are the rightful owners of the land in question, and this time they are determined that it should remain that way.
Explained their leader, Nanai Liu Tokuma: “We have tried everything so that we can keep our land.”
“But now we have nowhere to turn to for help, so we have decided to take this matter to Court.”
He also said: “This is not about money and it will never be about money.”
“We’re not looking for any compensation either; we just want our freedom to remain on this land.”
Nanai went on to explain that “this land was offered to us by the late Mata’afa Mulinuu, when the government at the time mistakenly charged my father, with the death penalty.”
“Luckily he escaped the charge.”
So who was Mata’afa Mulinuu? Well, perhaps Tuilaepa, as Prime Minister of this country today, should tell us.
Since today, it appears that as Samoa’s current Prime Minister, Tuilaepa is determined to take that very block of land back.
In any case, this dispute over land ownership in the township of Apia, reminds about other similar disputes around the Taufusi and Saleufi areas in the past.
Government leaders today, including Prime Minister Tuilapea, should know. Since this is where they lived during those days when went to school around Apia; Tuilaepa would have been one of them for sure.
And now looking around Saleufi and Taufusi today, all the privately-owned blocks of land that were empty or near-empty there then, are now gone.
In their places are supermarkets, restaurants, businesses of all sorts, and even churches.
So where have those families who had lived in their houses around Saleufi, Taufusi and Fugalei, gone?
Well, some of those who remained might have gone up on the mountains, alongside those steep slopes where the chances of their homes holding on when the floods begin, are practically nil.
Over there at Sogi on the other hand, a family’s fight to win ownership of the land they believe is rightly there’s, has begun.
Nanai Liu Tokuma is 76 years old. So what is he going to do at his age, if the government won the fight and his family is relocated to Falelauniu, a place he’s never been before?
Said Nanai: “The Tokuma family has been living in Sogi for more than a hundred years.”
Now that is a long, long time.
Think about the people who were born, nursed and raised on that land during all that time; how many generations after generations they would have been representing over the years, and are some of them working for Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his government, today?
And yet now, with a single word from Tuilapea, and all that history would be buried under rubble for ever, never to emerge.
Nanai revealed that in his family’s Court claim, they are seeking three orders.
• An order from the court to restrain the government from asking the family to pay for any surveying and evaluation works on the land.
• An order to stop the government from relocating the family.
• A decision by the government to allow these people to own the land.
Liu Tokuma Nanai also said:
“Then the late Mata’afa offered the land for our family because the government could not afford to pay what they owed them.”
“And then Mata’afa told Tokuma ‘go live on the land with your children’.”
What would Mata’afa be thinking today if he’s heard that Prime Minister Tuilaepa, intends on taking that land from the Nanai family, and returned it to the government?
What would he say if he’s told that Tokuma Nanai, at age 76, is being relocated to Falelauniu, a place he’d never been before?
Anyway, is the Attorney General one of Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s “children”?
Tell the rest what you think.
Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.