Have all the options about old Court House been exhausted?

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Dear Editor,

You invited comments on the apparent intention of S.I.F.A. to demolish the old Courthouse and to replace it with a building to house a hotel among other things. (Editorial - Observer 11/06/2018).

I was a member (not a Trustee) of the Apia Courthouse Trust for about two years, during which time the Trust tried very hard to try and raise funds to restore the old Courthouse. 

Sadly these attempts failed. 

So last year at a trust meeting, the chairperson notified the Trust members that the official lease of the Court House from the government to the Trust was to be transferred to S.I.F.A. 

The reason was that S.I.F.A. had money, and our understanding was that they would carry out the renovations necessary in accordance with the wish to retain the original structure of the building. 

Before the transfer took place, the Trust had solicited architectural advice from individuals in Germany and New Zealand. Some of them travelled to Samoa, inspected the building and wrote reports. 

These reports basically agreed that it was possible to restore the building but that it was expensive, and a figure of about twenty million tala (WS$20,000,000) was mentioned. 

Therefore, as a Trust we all felt very positive about S.I.F.A. taking over the lease.

I was very sad to hear that it is now decided that the building will be pulled down, apparently because the whole structure was rotten and eaten by ants and termites – beyond repair. 

If this is the case then so be it. But 

I wonder sometime if all the options have been exhausted? 

I wonder if other countries who have been associated with Samoa over the hundred years can help? If the Samoan government can successfully approach foreign governments to fund multi-million dollar building projects, why not do so with the Courthouse? 

Could it be part of the proposed water front beautification project?

The Courthouse in the past housed the government headquarters of the German and New Zealand authorities, but also, for many years, of Samoa’s independent government. 

I disagree with the suggestions made by some commentators that the Courthouse is part of our “colonial past” and should therefore be demolished. 

This implies that our history began in 1962. With such reasoning we could ask “why preserve archival material relating to the time the British, Germans and the Americans were in Samoa?”  Or “why preserve archaeological remains and oral histories believed to have been the result of the Tongan presence in Samoa?” 

Selection of what is important or not in our history, based on someone’s notion of Samoan national pride, should not be encouraged. 

Iconoclasm has a long history in which one group of people try to erase features of the past, driven by nationalism or by religious ideology. Let us not make the same mistakes.

 

Meleisea Leasiolagi 

Malama Meleisea

Centre for Samoan Studies, 

National University of Samoa

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