A 68-year-old-mother and grandmother, Tala Lei’ataua, of Sogi has made a heartfelt plea to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.
“Please let us stay on this land,” she said.
“This is where we belong. Our ancestors have worked so hard to level this swamp during the German colonial times for us. We want to stay.”
Should the government insist to evict, Tala said: “I ask the government to dig a hole and throw us all in there. I’d rather die and be buried on the land my ancestors passed down to us.”
The family of the elderly mother is among more than thirty families at Sogi who face eviction by the government, years after they were told to relocate to Falelauniu.
The families have been warned for the last time to relocate on their own, without being forcefully removed. They have been given 30 days to move.
“Everything that they (government) offered doesn’t mean anything. Nothing can compensate for the sweat and tears of our ancestors who helped to raise this swamp to what it is today.
“We’re ready to die on our land. If the government wants to still evict us from here soon, they can do whatever they want to do,
“But before they evict us, I’m asking them to dig a hole so we can all be thrown in there with our children.”
“We can’t leave this land behind,
“We’re ready to face the consequences – but – we want to be buried on this land. Tuilaepa, this land is where our grave is.”
Attempts to get comment from the General Manager of Samoa Land Corporation, Afoa Arasi Tiotio, were unsuccessful.
The decision by the government to relocate residents of Sogi was initially announced 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 many others have refused.
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 on.”