Govt. moves with relocation plan

By Ilia L. Likou 05 August 2016, 12:00AM

The majority of families at Sogi have agreed to relocate.

This is the latest update from the Samoa Land Corporation in the long-standing fight with Sogi residents to relocate to Falelauniu.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer on the condition of anonymity, the Senior Officer said they have already met with the families and they are happy leave.

“We’ve already discussed this issue (relocation) with families at Sogi and they have all agreed to relocate,” the official said. “This does not include one of the families. They didn’t want to relocate and they insist, then the Samoa Land Corporation might look for lands to relocate them to.”

The official did not say which family has not budged.

“As of today, not more than ten families are still at Sogi,” the official said. “That’s all we can say for now until further notice.”

The last day of May 2016 was the deadline given to the families at Sogi to relocate as part of the government’s plan to mitigate against the impact of climate change.

But during a recent interview with Sogi resident, Nanai Liu Tokuma, he told Samoa Observer that they are  not going anywhere.

“For your information, this land was given to our father, the late Tokuma Torurae by the late Mata’afa - the first Prime Minister of this country,” he said. “With his words to my father – ‘Go live on the land with your children; the government can’t afford to pay what we owe your father, now the land is yours forever.”

Nanai said his father had been mistakenly charged for the death of another businessman.

“He was sentenced to death,” he said. “I remembered vividly when our father said goodbye to us with his hands already handcuffed, ready to be executed. His hands were already tied, with a rope on his neck and cloth that covered his face.

“While walking towards where he would be hung, two Chinese men ran and told the Police that they were the ones who killed the business man. My father’s life was spared.

 “My father walked out free while fighting back tears right in front of us and our mother… that’s why we were offered this land where we’re living now.”

According to Nanai, the Prime Minister at the time gave them the piece of land as a peace offering.

“He told my father in front of us that ‘the government doesn’t have money to pay him but they offer him and his children this land for their rest of their lives.

“That’s why we’ve been living here. And now after all these years, the government is telling us to go away. What’s worse is that they are asking us to buy a piece of land at Falelauniu when we have no money to do that.”

Nanai said he rejects the offer.

“I heard they’re going to build a hotel here. This is on the land that we were for the life of our father. We’ve invested large amounts of money in developing our homes and families for many years.”

Referring to the warning from the government, Nanai said that Prime Minister Tuilaepa was just a young man at the time and he would not understand.

 “What’s very sad is that after the past four prime ministers, it’s only Tuilaepa who has jumped into this conclusion and told us to go to Falelauniu,” he said. “Not only that, he is telling us to buy land when they are not giving us any money.

 “We’re not going to pay for anything, we’re not stupid. The government told us to relocate to Falelauniu because of climate reasons but I heard that they’re planning to build a hotel here.”

Nanai said if push comes to shove, they would take their fight to Court.

 “I know the government has all the power in running the government. I don’t care still, we have all the right to fight for this land.”

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.

Two months ago, an elderly mother, Tala Leiataua, issued a heartfelt plea to Prime Minister Tuilaepa.

 “We’re ready to face the consequences – but – we want to be buried on this land, Tuilaepa, this land is where our grave is,” she said. “Please let us stay on this land. 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.” 

By Ilia L. Likou 05 August 2016, 12:00AM

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