Government threatens Court action for trespassing
The Government will not consider monetary demands by the four Satapuala families seeking relocation costs.
Instead Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said they will take the families to Court for trespassing on Government property.
The families are living on Satapuala land where the Government intends to extend the Faleolo International Airport runway across.
Last month, the Tauvala’au family of Satapuala said they were told to leave by 28 February 2018.
The order was confirmed by Tua’ato Tauvala'au Salausa, of Satapuala. But the family is not moving. She said unless the Government pays them $1 million, they are not going anywhere. However Tuilaepa said they have already paid relocation costs to the families.
“It’s been 35 years since the Government and Satapuala Village Council signed an agreement for the exchange of land,” Tuilaepa said.
The Government was given 22 acres by the Village Council and in return they were given 44 acres.
He added that when they wrapped up the negotiations, the Government handed over 64 acres.
“The Government has honoured our side of the agreement, but Satapuala residents took their time. The main reason behind the decision is for their own safety, given the said location is near the airport runway.
“The said area is covered in the pathway of any incoming and outgoing airplane.
“Under safety regulations, it is necessary for the families to relocate, hence the exchange of lands with compensation in addition to the lands.
“At the time, their Member of Parliament and all of the Village Chiefs signed this agreement.
“They’ve signed the agreement then turned around and stirred up trouble.” Tuilaepa did not specify who he was referring to but noted the Government is doing its due diligence as precautionary measures for their safety.
“We are doing our part in keeping them safe because it is our responsibility, even in protecting them for their stupidity, protecting them for their falling.”
Tuilaepa is adamant the said area is not safe for the residents of Satapuala. “We have had meetings with the Satapuala Village Council and they have allocated parcels for the said families.”
The Prime Minister made it clear the Government will not back up from this fight because this is for the best interest of Samoa as a whole. He said there were 22 families who resided on the said property and 19 families had relocated except for the four families.
“The Government will leave it to the Court and it’s been 35 years since these people have been trespassing on government property.
“For their protection, the Government is adamant they have to relocate.”
Tuilaepa said the families have the mentality that when they plant a breadfruit tree and coconut, when asked to cut it down, they demand compensation.
“Yet the trees are a threat to the safety of the public.”
Asked as to how much the Government spent on relocating the families, the Prime Minister was unclear.
“Another thing is, why we are compensating these families when they have been compensated with the exchange of lands,” he said.
A reliable source who sits on the government’s land committee said the Government has already paid out $900,000 to the 21 families, including the families who are demanding more money.
Last month, Tuaato Tauvala'au Salausa of Satapuala appealed to Tuilaepa to reconsider the Government’s decision.
“We will not leave our family land; this is where my father and our family members are buried,” she said. “I will not leave this land. This is my father’s (Tauvala'au Fasio) land.
“This is where I was born and grew up and I cannot fathom how the Samoan Government can just hand out only $34,000 to my daughter, yet our family land is worth far more than the lousy money they gave us.
“I live in American Samoa and prior to moving back in 2005, I had my daughter stay here at our land.
“I was only informed that my daughter accepted the $34,000. That is not enough to compensate the value of our land. How can the Samoa Government pay us peanuts?”
Asked whether the family will move come February 28, 2018, the mother is determined that will not happen.
“I am not moving out of my family land and I don’t care who will come, I will not move,” she said.
Salausa also has a message for Prime Minister Tuilaepa.
“Lands and chiefly titles are treasured by families and being that you Tuilaepa are a Chief, a leader of this country, you should know what we are fighting for.
“Why can’t the Government extend the airport towards Mulifanua, yet they have to pick on our family land?
“I am 73 years old, and my sister Aiava Johnson is 75 years old, we were born here and we’ve lived here all our lives.
“What hurts the most is the heartless move by the Government.
“There are three acres that is utilised by our family and for the Government to just come and evict us; it is just unbelievable how much they gave my daughter a lousy $34,000.”
The mother was emotional noting that her father is buried on their land. Satapuala Village Mayor, Vaili Mimita told the Samoa Observer that the families in question have been informed by the Village Council.
“I can confirm that the Government has given the family until next week (last week) to leave this specific part of Satapuala.
“The Village has allocated a specific space for the four families to move to, but if the families refuse to move, that is their prerogative and the Government will step in, but the Village Council has already played their part,” said Vaili.
“We informed them the eviction is effective next week,” he said.