Government and Sogi land: The plight of the original settlers
– like Middle Eastern refugees in the Mediterranean Sea …
“Pe le’i tatau ‘ea ona talia le pologa … se ia sa’oloto?”
Lautusi S. Tuivai’ese II
The latest publicity announcement by Government for the Sogi people to move out is not far
off from ISIS blood propaganda for which Middle Eastern refuges are dispersed all over Europe by aimless wars that have no discernible meaning, other than to announce “We ISIS own all these lands”; therefore move out or be killed. Here in Sogi by our quite Pacific peace, that Government threat is more sinister, though without guns and blood. Remember the Satapuala people and their land forcefully taken for the Faleolo Airport back during colonial times? The impact here is the same.
Sogi indentured labourers that first and originally settled at that strip of land at Sogi, now one of the most lucrative pieces of prime property, is suffering the same colonial fate - move out or get dispersed in the tide that comes on all 3s from the north, west and south. Poor people without hope, pei o tagata Suria i le taua o lo’o faia nei i Sasa’e Tutotonu - leai se fa’asinomaga. Each Sunday and each day in the evenings when night comes, we lay down our days’ labour and pray thank you Lord, seeking forgiveness and asking for strength to face the new day tomorrow … and when it arrives, Sogi people are treated precisely the same as yesterday – get out or suffer. And the cycle continues …. What measure was that prayer last night intended to achieve … ?????
Sogi settlers were from the Solomon Islands, German New Guinea or what is now Bougainville, and the Bismark Archipelago of New Guinea, brought here by the Germans to be labourers in their coconut, cocoa and rubber plantations because the Samoans refuse to do the work, or that we were too chiefly! to handle what labourers do! In that light, o tama uli were like the cotton slaves in America brought in to do the dirty slavery work. But unlike them, being former slaves who are now free men and women, some even now aspiring smilingly to be President of America freely calling itself the greatest in the world! While President Barack Obama does not fit into that slave category as his father was a Kenyan scholar at Harvard and his mother a white American from sunshine Hawaii, the mere fact he is part Afro-American makes him one of them, one of us – and it shines an imbeccable light that evidences freedom and liberty is colourless, that it is not the outside that shines, but the blood in the veins that flow in the heart and the mind that God gives, which determines you and I, mostly by the deeds we do and the words we utter in the speech we made!
Can Government see the Sogi settlers in that light? Does it have the greater understanding to acknowledge that what previous Governments had allocated to indentured labourers - our fathers and mothers and now their children - our brothers and sisters – can it see that when the Germans left them in the country then, they have become much like the Chinese the
Germans also brought? But while some of the Chinese were shipped out like cargo – how despicably deplorable - and others who remained have now acquired full economic and financial power to impact as high up as in the political mainstream, these poor coconut, cocoa and rubber labourers are still laboring to make Sogi home!
At that colonial time, they were settled at Sogi. Subsequently, an agreement was reached between Western Samoa Trust Estates Corporation (WSTEC), formerly the New Zealand Reparation Estate (NZRE), and the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (EFKS), in exchange for the EFKS land at Leulumoega Tuai where the Leulumoega Hospital now sits, and the WESTEC land at Sogi where the settlers had of course, settled well before this agreement. Subsequently, Government bought this Sogi land from WESTEC for $90,000, and left it at that ... !
For themselves, the settlers have lived at, occupied and made Sogi their own for about 92 years now – 8 years short of a century of 100 years. This occupation – undisturbed and continuous - is fully documented in the EFKS missions at Sogi, first under Rev Moresi from 1932 – 1964; then under Rev Saroa Mataio from 1964 to 1977, and lately and now under Susuga I le Faifeau Toeaina, Rev Elder Kerisiano Soti, from 1978 up to now. In documents discovered in the course of this research, it is confirmed Sogi settlers have now arguably acquired settler’s rights – and therefore of personal rights of ownership to this Sogi property - by virtue of their long, continuous and undisturbed possession which WSTEC and Government had fully accepted, abided by and acted on in acquiescence.
Come to think of it now, these rights include rights of acquisition by adverse possession that when Government knowingly repeal that law in the Limitation Act 1975 by the Limitation Amendment Act 2012 to do away with actions to recover land and to evict a party from those same lands, it is clear these Sogi settlers’ land acquisition rights was the prime concern of that amendment law. Arguably however, one sees this amendment as unlawful and unconstitutional the Sogi settlers’ right, of course by their continuous and undisturbed possession that that amendment law, on test litigation, may be found wanting. In the very least, it is questionable! Of course and to repeat, this is continuous and undisturbed occupation and possession for about 50 to 60 years in 1984 when WESTEC first began to consider this whole Sogi displacement saga. From the next 32 years from 1984 to now, it is now possession and occupation for 90 plus years.
To better understand all this, part of the document referred to above – dated ’20 Iuni 1984’ – discovered from the writer’s research, shows, arguably in support of Sogi settlers’ plight:
“ … Mo lo outou silafia, ua 54 nei tausaga … i Sogi, a ua silia i le 60 tausaga talu ona nofoia e o matou matua lenei nofoaga sa avea ai ma auauna i le Esetete. Sa amata na matou nonofo i fale uumi (number lines) sa lata atu i le mea o i ai nei le Tusitala. Na fa’atonuina o matou aiga e si’i mai i tua ina ua amata ona lisi ina atu ia vaega ‘ele’ele. Na matou se’e atu ma atina’e le mea o i ai nei le Shell Company. Sa i ai lo matou fale-lotu, fale e nonofo ai, ma se malae mo ta’aloga. O le vaitaimi lea o le pule o Etena. Ae peita’i, ina ua suia mai i le isi pule o Keli, sa le gata ina fa’atula’ieseina nisi aiga, ae ua lisi uma atu lea fauua e pei ona i ai nei le Shell. O se taima lea e manatua pea ma le fa’anoanoa. Fa’i o lo matou atuatuavale, a’o le
popole i le va’ai atu i tane-penisini ma suau’u, ua la’u mai ma matou fa’afeagai. Ae ui lava i lea vevesi ma le le mautonu po’o fea a matou o i ai, sa fesoasoani mai le Afioga i le Palemia – Afioga Mata’afa, ma taofia ai le fa’atula’ieseina uma o i matou, ae fautuaina ia fa’aauaau pea le lotu, ma taumafai ona teuteu tafatafa ane o le Shell matou te nonofo ai. Sa fa’aalia fo’ e Mata’afa, o le a o’o mai i se aso ma fai se tonu mautu e uiga i lea fa’afitauli. Ae peia’i, ua o’o ina tu’umalo le Afioga a Mata’afa e le’i maua se avanoa e toe o’o mai ai.
“O lea e ui ina faigata, ae sa taumafai lava e toe tau atia’e. Sa punonou e tanuina le vai ma le togatogo, e toe fai ai se fale lotu, ma se mea matou te nonofo ai. Sa lagona lava le fa’amalosi ma le onosa’i i le fa’atasi mai o le Atua.
“Ina ua tula’i mai Tupuola Nu’uausala le ulua’i Pule Samoa o le Esetete, sa lagolago mai ina ia fausia se fale-lotu mautu, ma se fale o le Galuega …. Sa fesoasoani mai fo’i nisi o le Komiti Fa’atonu e pei o le Afioga a Va’ai sa iai i lea vaitaimi … [O] sa matou galuega ua faia i lenei fanua ma lona tau fa’aleleia, matou te ta’utino atu, o i matou o ni tagata ma ni aiga e nonofo pea ae ‘olo.
“Atonu po’o le finagalo fo’i lea o le Atua e tusa ma lo outou nofoa’i mai. Pe le’i tatau ‘ea ona talia le pologa? Pe le’i tatau ea ona i ai sona tofi ma se mea e nofo sa’oloto ai?”
In reality, this is Sogi settler’s cry for freedom; the cry for liberty this piece is making in speaking out about this, in the tears of autumn dried up in the political power Sogi settlers are better off somewhere away from this prime seaside property! And so therefore, they are
displaced to buy land by the rubbish dump at Tafa’igata/Falelauniu!
But while some of them have accepted this, especially those who were only lessees at Sogi,
those who were not, but were the original settlers that first settled; occupied; lived there,
refilled and reclaimed the mangroves and the foreshore – they have acquired proprietary rights to Sogi land that Government, and for that matter anybody else, cannot merely exert political power and public pressure for them to vacate and move out. Lately when one of those settlers – elderly mother Tala Leiataua - shed tears against that Government’s displacement of them, she cried to bury them at Sogi - where they had struggled and buried their dead this last 90 years, where they had originally first settled o Tagata Uli, as they are being discriminated against and treated differently from all others! The writer then potently remembers the American Indians plea to ‘Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee’ where they were born and raised in the Plains; or as in Ruth’s pure dedicatory love to Naomi, that ‘where you go I go; where you live I live; your land is my land, and your God, my God’. For Sogi settlers, it is the same tears o tagata o le ‘ele’ele – Sogi is their land, their liberty and our Samoan freedom!
Coming back to the letter above dated ’20 Iuni 1984’, it is now 92 years of Sogi occupation, originally free and without lease as then under ‘Etena’ of WESTEC, until under ‘Keli’ some settlers’ were ‘fa’atula’i’ese; while those remaining lived in fear of the imminent danger of fire in Shell Company’s oil, diesel and petrol containers. (In view of the recent oil container disaster at Matautu, this fear was genuinely real). And Government and WESTEC then cared less of human lives, just like now in displacing the people!
Then, real and true leadership came in first Prime Minister, Afioga Fiame Mata’afa Faumuina Mulinu’u II, who stopped the displacement and fa’atula’ieseina of Sogi people, but ordered that they stayed on, build the church, and continued to live on the land. The Prime Minister also informed them, “o le a o’o mai i se aso ma fai se tonu mautu e uiga i lea fa’afitauli”.
In the first place, the fa’afitauli here is the Shell Company oil storage by the people’s residence, not the Sogi people. In the second and unfortunately, former Prime Minister Mata’afa passed away before that fa’afitauli was removed. But that sad event notwithstanding, and in this writer’s considered view, the decision by then Prime Minister Fiame Mata’afa Faumuina II that the Sogi settlers stayed on, lived at and make Sogi their home, is the same decision for this matter now.
It is a Government decision that subsequent Administration cannot change without valid, legitimate and or exceptional reasons. Indeed and unless there is fraud established that Prime Minister Fiame Mata’afa Faumuina Mulinuu II acted ulra vires his governmental administrative powers, the present announcement by Government that Sogi people move out, is illegal and downright unlawful.
And so it was, as that letter continued, that Sogi people struggled on, “taumafai [ma] toe ati-
a’e”. They reclaimed the foreshore and the mangroves, and with God’s guidance and help,
they rebuild the church and reclaimed further to sea and acquired land to live on. In short, this is their acquisition, this is their land! And when then first Samoan General Manager of WESTEC, Tupuola Nu’uausala took over, he recognised this, and helped rebuild “[l]e fale-lotu; [and] fale o le Galuega”, and Afioga Va’ai, then a member of the WESTEC Komiti Fa’atonu, also helped out.
In all, Sogi people themselves make Sogi, they raised it from the mud, the sea and the foreshore. They lived with the mangroves, and they benefitted from it. And the land had evolved and grown and spread more and wider than the imminent danger of the Shell Company oil depot there was – and in all that time WESTEC and Government gladly assisted; helped out, and make it more livable for the people that were living there then!
And these are the same people still living here and calling Sogi, home - the direct descendents of the original settlers; their children and grandchildren, and great grand children.
It follows the purported displacement by Government through the letter of eviction from Samoa Land Corporation, is just that, a letter. Unless by Notice of Eviction ordered by the Supreme Court - which Government appears not to want to file action for – that purported eviction violate all rights of the Sogi people!
And you know what, Sogi settlers are all Samoans, they speak the Samoan language; they rejoice in Samoan culture, they carry Samoan passports, and they worship God Almighty, the Omni-present, your God, my Lord. As Ruth cried in Naomi’s arms, ‘where you go I go, where you live I live, your land is my land, and Your God my God’!