Matai speaks out

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia ,

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NOT HAPPY: Falealupo matai, Aeau Mareko Lamositele.

NOT HAPPY: Falealupo matai, Aeau Mareko Lamositele.

A matai from Falealupo, Aeau Mareko Lamositele, has rubbished the findings of an investigation into an alleged oil spill in his village last year.

The incident happened when a fishing vessel ran aground at the reef of the village. A government committee conducted an investigation and concluded that there was no oil spill.

But Aeau is not convinced. 

He alleged that there was an oil spill and the investigating committee only turned up to conduct their works on the last week of October when the boat ran aground at the beginning of the month.

Falealupo had also sought compensation of $1million for the damages but up until today, they have not received anything. 

“They said there was no oil spill but the villagers were there on that day it happened,” said Aeau. “Oil did spill and evidence is the villagers saw it with their own eyes. 

“The investigation came almost three weeks after the boat ran aground. If you think about it, the Falealupo map shows that it is on the tip of the island and of course after three weeks the oil would have been washed away…the villagers saw the oil spill.”

During the incident in October last year, the Manager of Apia Deep Fishing, Mr. Chen said the captain had misjudged the weather. 

But Aeau disagrees. According to him, the captain was an experienced person and there was no cyclone. 

“It doesn’t make sense that there wasn’t any cyclone and yet they ended up on the reef,” said Aeau. He alleged that the crewmen and the captain were under the influence of alcohol.

“The people of our village saw this.”

Aeau said he is speaking out because he believes that the government should be more proactive in holding these companies to account for the damage to the environment.

What’s more, Aeau said the government should consider where the boat was.

“What were they doing here so close to the reef,” asked Aeau. 

“They had violated our local laws. They were fishing in areas that by law they are not allowed to do so. The big question is if they are big foreign companies that are taking fish from our waters and earning big money, they should not have any problem paying the compensation for the damage they caused.

“The victims of this are villagers of Falealupo. They are safeguarding the ocean side and had their fish they depend on being taken by the fishing vessels and they get nothing out of it.”

The matai also warned that if the government continues to ignore such matters, this would be seen as an open invitation for other boats to follow suit.

 “They could not remove the boat because it was badly damaged. If there was no oil and it wasn’t that bad as they claim then why would they cut the boat into halves and sold the metal from it when they could have just taken it back and use it again. It does not make sense at all.”  

Aeau said their village has been in contact with the government about their concerns.

They have also approached the Office of the Attorney General for assistance. 

It was not possible to get a comment from A.Gs Office as well as Apia Deep Fishing company.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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