‘We’re not leaving’

Two more residents of Sogi have spoken out against the government’s decision to force them to relocate from the only homes they have known their entire lives.

Sixty-nine-year-old Aiga Tokuma and Faali’i Tokuma say they feel like they have been betrayed by the government given the stories they have heard since they were told to relocate.

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

Aiga is the daughter of the late Tokuma Torurae, who is originally from the Solomon Islands.

“We’ve seen many foreign businessmen visiting this area almost everyday,” she said. “This is new. Back in the days, we hardly see 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.”

Aiga said all the talk about sea level rise and coastal erosion as reasons for their eviction is not true.

“Why not evacuate all the villages of Samoa then who are on the coastal areas?” she said. “Whatever they’ve been saying, it’s a lot of lies. They’ve been telling us to relocate to Falelauniu because of climate issues, tsunami, cyclones and many more and yet the government wants to relocate us to further their developments.

“This is not love, these are all lies. This land is where our forefathers sweated over the years to give us a future. 

“Now the government wants us to relocate us with a lousy $3,000? We’re not leaving.”

Aiga Tokuma said that this is the second time they have been threatened with eviction from the government.

“The first time was during the time of the late Tofilau Eti Alesana, while my mother was still alive,” she said.

 “I remember the government officials were all here on that morning with machines to dismantle and clear this area.

“It was a saddest scene ever but we’re very lucky when our eldest brother, the late Lei’ataua told them to dig a hole to dump us all in.

“At that time, the government told us to go to Fagali’i.” 

In previous interviews, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi insisted that the people of Sogi will be better off somewhere lese.

But Aiga Tokuma does not agree. 

“This is our home,” she said. “Our forefathers leveled this swamp for us to stay on during the German Colonial times. Today, we’re like prisoners on our own land.”

Aiga Tokuma also criticised the decision by the government to erect a garage and a tall concrete fence in the middle of their village.

“We feel like we are being separated from this country,” she said. “It’s like we’re not part of this community anymore.

“We are sad but we’re keeping our peace.

“The area where the garage is located was like a malae where our people used to gather for special occasions, fa’alavelave, wedding and sports as well,

“But the government obviously prefer a garage for vehicles than people, right in front of our faces, leaving us behind to stay on the end of these swamps.”

Another resident, Fa’ali’i said they “are being made victims of the government’s greed for more power. 

“There is no other land; there is no other life but this for us,” she said.

“We’re living in fear everyday…countless of sleepless nights about when the government will forcefully move us away.

“We’re still praying…still praying that somewhere, someday soon…the government will let us stay. We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us, we are worried every day.

More than 10 acres have been allocated to the 33 Sogi families to shift to, each getting a quarter acre to buy, Tuilaepa said during a previous interview.

 “This will benefit them,” said the Prime Minister. “There is now bigger land to grow food in.” It was not possible to get a comment from the C.E.O of S.L.C, Ulugia Petelo Kavesi, yesterday.

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