Govt. gives last chance to Sogi residents
The Minister of Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.), Lautafi Fio Purcell, says the Government is firm.
The families remaining at Sogi have until next week leave or they face the risk of being evicted.
“I do not accept what they are saying that they knew nothing about it and were not aware of a timeframe to leave the area,” Lautafi told the Samoa Observer.
“That is not true. They are well aware of the government plans on those lands and have been served letters to relocate or leave the government-owned land.
“Now they are given until next week to leave so that works for the development can start rolling out.”
The development in question is the relocation of the Savalalo market to Sogi. When news about the project surfaced two weeks ago, some residents of Sogi who are still living in the area told the Samoa Observer they were unaware about the details.
Despite the Government having ordered all Sogi residents to relocate to Falelauniu in 2011, some families have decided to stay back. They told the Samoa Observer they wanted more details from the Government about the market relocation plan.
But Minister Lautafi said the Government would not stop its development plans for families who refuse to leave lands owned by the Government. Although he said the families have been given more than enough time to vacate the area, the S.L.C. will schedule one more meeting with them.
In 2011, the Government asked about 30 families that lived on S.L.C. land in Sogi to leave the area because of its vulnerability to sea level rise. They were given the option to relocate to a quarter acre land at Falelauniu where they could lease to own for $30,000.
A number of families have taken the option. But others have refused.
“The families that lived in Sogi have been living on those government land for free for the past years they have been there,” said Lautafi.
“The government has been wanting to move ahead with its developments and now is the time to implement those developments and the lands are needed to do that.
“The families have been given support with options to relocate to and majority of the families have agreed to take that option.”
Lautafi said the Government is looking at about five acres for the market plan.
Asked why the Government is building a market at Sogi if it has been declared vulnerable to sea level rise and other climatic challenges, the Minister said the decision was made for residents, not public projects.
He also made reference to other Government developments at the peninsula in Mulinu’u, which includes the Parliament house and the Court House.
“Natural disasters and other natural changes to our climate cannot stop the government from its developments,” he explained.
“So the government cannot let those people live there knowing its unsafe but it can continue with its development and build a seawall or what is needed to mitigate the effects.
“If a tsunami comes tomorrow, we cannot prevent it and it is out of our control but we still have to make developments to service our people and utilise government land.”
The Minister also revealed that the Government is looking to relocate the Savalalo bus depot to Sogi where the new market will be built.
“The access to the area will be a lot quicker and easier than what people are imagining at the moment,” he said.
“That is the plan to shift the bus stop which will be convenient and it will also be near the Vaiusu wharf if that plan comes through.”
The Minister could not confirm the cost of the market project but said it would be funded by S.L.C.
Once the new market is constructed, Lautafi said the Government has plans to use the Savalalo area for another government building. He did not say what that would be.