Why are the residents of Sogi being denied this freedom?

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

No matter how hard we’ve been trying to dismiss from our minds this protracted standoff between the government and the marginalized residents of Sogi, we cannot.

That abhorrent fracas will just not go away.

Instead, it is remaining so resolute in the mind where it is refusing to move away so that naturally, the befuddling question is: Why?

The answer is simple enough. 

It’s because this country’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, is insisting on evicting the residents of Sogi from that swampy spot on the Mulinu’u Peninsula, and yet that is where they’ve been living all their lives.

This is to say that spot, to them, is home.

Incidentally, Tuilaepa made that decision of his quite clear in the story published in the Samoa Observer on 21 August 2016, titled: “Govt. stands firm in village dispute”.

In it, he is quoted as having said, the government will not change its mind about relocating the residents of Sogi, and yet, without a doubt in our minds, the residents he’s referring to are Samoan citizens, just as he is.

This is to say most of them – if not all of them - are the descendants of the original settlers of Sogi who have been living on that very spot even before the beginning of the Second World War, in July 1914.

Now whether he likes it or not, we are talking here about 98 years of memory that are most likely to be obliterated completely from the mind, starting the moment Tuilaepa’s eviction order is carried out.

And that, once again, brings us down to this country’s Constitution, its Supreme Law that is, Section 13(d)which instructs: “All citizens of Samoa shall have the right to move freely throughout Samoa, and to reside in any part thereof.”

Now the pestering questions are: Why are the residents of Sogi, who are Samoan citizens, being denied this freedom? 

Indeed, what terrible crime have they committed so that they are now being punished with eviction, and as if to ensure the pain would bite even deeper still, they are also to be relocated to a place they’d never set foot on, during their entire lives?

That is what we want to know.

Incidentally, we’ve been told the government corporation, the Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.), has been directed by Cabinet to deal with the Sogi fiasco, from now on.

As for Tuilaepa, the reports say he has made it clear he would not be drawn into the dispute at this point, other than assuring us that the government’s decision is final.

Still, what kind of final is he talking about now? Is that a threat to be wary of? 

Said Tuilaepa: “The matter concerning the Sogi residents is now with the Samoa Land Corporation.”

He also said: “The government’s decision to remove the residents from Sogi still stands.”

Fine. 

In fact, S.L.C’s general manager, Ulugia Petelo Kavesi, seems to know exactly what Tuilaepa wants done. 

Having insisted that Tuilaepa’s decision had not changed, Ulugia told the Sunday Samoan all that his office was working on, was to ensure the residents are relocated in a peaceful manner.

Wonderful! 

And as for those who did not know, he revealed that “many residents have already accepted the offer to relocate to Falelauniu, but only a few families at Sogi are still rejecting the offer.”

Splendid!

Ulugia also revealed: “There are residents who have their own opinions on the matter, but then the government has already made their decision and that is, they must relocated.”

Brilliant!

Asked if it was likely that some residents would be forcefully evicted, Ulugia said not a chance. In other words, every eviction will be carried out peacefully.

How peaceful? 

How can an eviction, which is the forceful removal of a person – or persons – from their homes, be made peaceful? 

Explained Ulugia: “For now, the government is not in a position to force them off the land.”

Wonderful!

He said: “We are still giving them the chance to leave peacefully, even though the deadline given to them to relocate has passed.”

What are deadlines meant to do anyway? In a free country, are they necessary? 

Ulugia went on to defend the government’s decision to ask the residents to move, saying there was more than enough land at Falelauniu for them to develop, and purchase for themselves. 

He said: “We are still giving them time to move to Falelauniu. “There is no deadline given to them at this stage.

 “I want to reiterate that the government’s decision to relocate them is in order for them to have a better life. That’s what the government is looking at for the residents.”

Thank you Ulugia!

And as for rumours about developments the government is planning at the area, Ulugia said: “I have no knowledge on that issue so I have no comment to make.”

Fine. 

As for Sogi resident, Aiga Tokuma, 69, she had something to say. 

She said every time the idea she could be evicted with her family from their home came up, she felt being betrayed by the government.

“I just think the government’s plan to relocate us to another area so that they could further their developments, is really sad.” 

She also said: “We’ve seen many foreign businessmen visiting this area almost every day. 

“This is new. Back in the old days, we hardly saw any of them on our land, but it seems like they’re here to see where they’re going to build.

 “They came one day and told me that they want to look around. I knew from that time that they’re planning to build something here.”

What might that “something” be anyway?

Now it looks as if the problem here is that Tuilaepa is not telling the public what is afoot.

 In other words, what exactly is he  planning to do at Sogi which requires the eviction and relocation of those who have been living there all their lives, has got to be made public.

Otherwise, why doesn’t the government just throw away that which it is holding back, and then proceed to play the Nazi trick on these defiant, hard-headed people? 

The way we see it, all that the government should do is bring around the cattle trucks, herd all those defiant people on board them, and then drive away to the rubbish dump at Tafaigata where a big hole will have already been dug anyway, and by that time those running the show will have already known what they are supposed to do next.

Now that should do the trick, don’t you think? 

Well, the Nazi did it to six million Jews, and it worked.

And here in this peaceful, laid-back paradise we all love to call home, we cannot see why that little trick would not work.

It will. Trust me.

What about you?

Tell the rest what you’re thinking anyway.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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