Ti’avea airport compensation disputed – Silimanai

Samoa Airports Authority (SAA) General Manager, Silimanai Ueta Jr Solomona, has disputed claims by a Ti’avea family that the Government failed to compensate them for their land to build a new airport. 

Ti’avea resident Aila Esekia told the Samoa Observer they are yet to be paid by the Government, despite being told they were to get some payment last December.

But in a letter addressed to this newspaper, Silimanai said the Government's compensation to Mr. Esekia and his family “is being contested by another family member, and as such, funds are being held by the relevant Ministry until the issue is resolved".

Silimanai also accused this newspaper for what he described as "sensationalising" the issue, saying the newspaper's reporting is working against the Government's attempts to bring improvements to the lives of the people. 

“Such sensational journalism is sub-standard of your newspaper and often results in working against efforts to improve access for our people,” he added. 

Silimanai also clarified the issue of compensation in relation to other Ti’avea families who are still waiting to be paid.

“Additionally, should you choose to run a follow-up article, it may be good to note that currently the Office of the Attorney General is finalising the necessary agreements that requires signatures from all parties concerned,” Silimanai wrote.

 “Once this is completed, the Cabinet approved funds will then be disbursed to the affected landowners.”

The SAA General Manager did not say when this will happen. But he assured that the Government has done its work to ensure community rights are protected, while accusing the newspaper of being sensational. 

“Please be advised that the S.A.A. and the Cabinet select committee have done its due diligence throughout the Ti’avea project and have paid particular attention to ensuring the community rights are respected and protected,” he added. 

Speaking during an interview, Mr. Esekia said the Government owes their family some $700,000 tala. The Esekia family is one of nine families who are still waiting to be compensated, according to the Ti’avea paramount chief, Tuiavi’i Petelo Ioane.

Read the letter from General Manager Silimanai on page 13 in the Wednesday, April 17, 2019 edition of the Samoa Observer.

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