Let’s tear that “wall at Sogi” down!
Here in Auckland where you come once in a while to unwind, dare the muse to smash open the box of dreams and pretend all is well, almost every night now I’ve been dreaming of the “Berlin Wall”.
In the dream, I’m driving along Apia’s Beach Road heading westward, past the Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Office Complex as it’s lording with such inimitable invincibility over the western end of Apia’s now infamous Beach Road, and right there running inland is a formidable-looking concrete barricade that intrinsically reminds of the “Berlin Wall”.
Believe it or not, it all began sometime ago when Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi announced he was evicting the residents of Sogi just next door to the Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Building, and relocate them to a place out there in the bush called Falelauniu.
Incidentally, Falelauniu is the word for a simple hut which roof is draped with coconut fronds to protect its occupants from the rain and sun, and now the question that I’m sure you’re aching to ask, is: What has a lousy hut got to do with this tyke dreaming about the “Berlin Wall?”
Let me tell you.
It keeps reminding him that the Concrete Wall that is now standing between the Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Monument and the village of Sogi, looks almost exactly the same as the “Berlin Wall” that once stood between the German Sector in West Berlin, and the Russian Sector in East Berlin.
But then the ‘Berlin Wall’ had been torn down, so how did he know what it looked like?
Because he was there, and now that this standoff between Tuilaepa and the Sogi residents has come along, he’s aware that this is one memory-arousing story that will just not go away.
Back in the early eighties, the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Samoa, the late William Keil, invited the writer to visit West Germany; it was during that trip that he went on a guided tour of the “Berlin Wall”.
At the time, as an aftermath of the Second World War, Germany was split into four zones that were now being occupyed separately by forces belonging to the Americans, British, French and Russian.
As for the City of Berlin, which lay deep within the Russian sector, it too was divided except it was into two parts, with a wall running through it so that West Berlin was in the German sector, and East Berlin was in the Russian sector.
The story is that at first, Berliners were permitted to move freely between sectors but by 1960, around a thousand East Berliners a day were voting with their feet, by moving to the West.
That was when a far more serious confrontation took place.
On 13 August 1961, the East German government surrounded the western sectors of Berlin with barbed wire, cutting them off from the outside world.
And then “the notorious reinforced concrete wall” came.
It was installed “across the East Berlin City center” so that any movement across the border was impossible.
Reveals Wikipedia: “This ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart,’ as it was called in the East, was not of course intended to keep ‘fascists’ out, but to keep the good citizens of the workers’ state in.”
And then when Ronald Reagan became the President of the United States of America, he made an emphatic move; he called for the Berlin Wall to be torn down.
He made that clear during a visit to West Berlin in 1982 where, in his “tear down this wall” address, he said: “I’d like to ask the Soviet leaders one question. Why is the wall there?”
Four years later, 25 years after the wall had been constructed, and in response to the West German newspaper, Bild-Zeitung, asking when he thought the wall could be “torn down”, Reagan said: “I call upon those responsible to dismantle it today.”
On the day before Reagan’s 1987 visit, 50,000 people had demonstrated against the presence of the American president in Berlin. During the visit itself, wide swaths of Berlin were shut off hermetically from the event to suppress further anti-Reagan protests, Wikipedia says.
President and Mrs. Reagan were taken to the Reichstag, where they viewed the wall from a balcony, and when Reagan delivered his speech at the Brandenburg Gate, it was in front of two panes of bulletproof glass.
Among the spectators were West German president Richard von Weizsäcker, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and West Berlin mayor, Eberhard Diepgen.
Reagan, addressing his audience, said:
“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.
“There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.”
Reagan also “called for an end to the arms race with his reference to the Soviets’ SS-20 nuclear weapons, and for the possibility not merely of limiting the growth of arms, but of eliminating, for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.”
And then addressing General Secretary Gorbachev directly, he asked:
“If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate.”
Reagan then said: “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Later on in his speech, President Reagan told his audience: “As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner.
“(They say) ‘This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.’”
Reagan also said: “Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth.
“This wall cannot withstand freedom.”
Anyway, that was in Germany some 29 years ago.
In the end, and in response to President Reagan’s request, the Berlin Wall fell; it was torn down.
And since it was man-made, it could not withstand faith or the truth; indeed, it could not withstand freedom.
What about the standoff between the residents of that tiny village at Mulinu’u called Sogi, and Prime Minster Tuilaepa, who is also the leader of what is considered the most powerful political party in the Commonwealth of Nations today, the Human Rights Protection Party?
What happens when a people are evicted from the land of their birth so that their freedom to choose, which is also their basic human right, is taken forcibly away from them by their government?
How can they maintain their faith in the truth, and be reassured that their freedom is always there to guide and be depended on?
Today, the “wall” – or standoff if you will - on the western end of Apia’s Beach Road, with Prime Minister Tuilaepa on one side, and the residents of Sogi on the other side, is synonymous with the Berlin War that President Reagan had ordered 29 years to be “torn down.”
And so, as we’re standing here listening, Reagan is saying out loud for the entire world to hear: “I call upon those responsible to dismantle it today.”
He is also saying: Prime Minister Tuilaepa sailele Malielegaoi, let the people of Sogi live on the land on which they were born. Be a man. Be a leader. Tear this wall and this silly standoff down!
Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.