More than thirty families at Sogi face eviction by the government, years after they were told to relocate to Falelauniu.
Confirmed by an official at the Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C) who spoke to the Weekend Observer on the condition of anonymity, she said the families have been warned for the last time to relocate on their own, without being forcefully removed.
“A date for eviction has not been set yet but I can tell you that we are not far from it,” the official said.
“While we don’t want to evict anybody, we might have no choice because it’s been a few years now. All these families have been warned in advance and they were also given the benefits of relocating to Falelauniu.
“Sadly we notice that many of them remain on the land which they were supposed to vacate.”
The decision by the government to relocate residents of Sogi was initially announce in 2011. The government then offered families a quarter acre of land at Falelauniu which they will ‘lease to own’ at just over $30,000 and $3,000 cash to relocate.
Many families at Sogi have taken up the offer.
But others have refused.
A resident who only wanted to be identified as Panifolo told the Weekend Observer that they have not received an eviction letter from the Samoa Land Corporation.
“The only time that we knew about this issue between us and the government was back in 2013,” Panifolo said.
“Now that I’m aware that we might be forced to leave, I am devastated. I have no hope. We have nowhere else to go if that’s what the government want.”
Another resident said she was aware about the government’s plan from the beginning.
“Yes, we were told in the beginning that once the new church at Falelauniu is completed, then that’s the end for us on this land.
“But we feel that this is wrong. We invested large amounts of money in developing our homes and families for many years.” Commenting on the $3,000 relocation offer, she said it was not enough.
“It’s an insult,” she said, “when you weigh out how much we struggle to develop our families over so many years. “As of today, more than thirty families still live in Sogi. I think only six families have relocated.”
“This is really sad for everyone of us here. We are being made victims of the government’s decisions.”
But the government doesn’t see it that way. In fact, according to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the people of Sogi will be better off elsewhere.
Speaking about the issue during a Parliament session years ago, Tuilaepa said the standard of living for residents of Sogi will improve if they relocate.
“There is not enough land to grow crops for families to rely on,” Tuilaepa said at the time. “The only importance of land located inside town (like Sogi) is that it is convenient for transport.”
More than 10 acres have been allocated to the 33 Sogi families to shift to, each getting a quarter acre to buy, Tuilaepa said at the time.
“This will benefit them,” said the Prime Minister. “There is now bigger land to grow food in.”
It was not possible to get a comment from the C.E.O of S.L.C, Afoa Arasi Tiotio yesterday. But she told the Savali two years ago that they have tried to work with the families. “We have been trying to use the Samoan way in working with the families, e pei o le ava fatafata lava o loo faia ai nei mea but still some families refuse.”
Afoa said that government is looking for a “win, win” case and are continuing to work together with families in Sogi so that a suitable decision is made.
Some residents have refused because of their faith and government has addressed that issue together with the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S).