The residents of Sogi and Vaiusu, warning from Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster
The good news is that families remaining at Sogi have been given a bit more time to prepare to leave the land on which the Government is planning to use for a new market behind the T.A.T.T.E. building.
It’s the very least they deserve. After all, these people have known no other home but Sogi. So imagine this? After spending your entire life in a particular place, where you have seen generations of your family grow up, and then one day you are suddenly told to move because it doesn’t belong to you?
That’s got to be one of the hardest things anyone – any Samoan - would have to deal with. But that’s precisely what has been happening in Sogi for the past few years.
This story has been well covered in the pages of this newspaper.
Suffice to say, having recently revealed a plan to relocate the Savalalo market there, the Government has now given the Sogi residents remaining in the area until 31 December, to relocate.
The news was revealed by Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.) Chief Executive Officer, Ulugia Kavesi Petelo, who also confirmed there are more than 20 families still living at Sogi.
“The families have been given many chances…,” Ulugia said.
Well he’s correct. In 2011, the Government had asked the families to relocate due to their vulnerability to sea level rising. They were given the option to move to a quarter acre land at Falelauniu, which they could lease to own for $30,000. A number of families took the option. But others refused.
For the Minister of S.L.C., Lautafi Fio Purcell, the matter is quite simple.
“The families that lived in Sogi have been living on those Government land for free for the past years they have been there,” he said.
“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.”
Well there you have it. It sounds like the Government is in a bit of a hurry. What do you think? How would you feel if you were one of those Sogi residents?
Truth be told, all we can think of — now that the Government has given Sogi residents a bit more time — is the people of Vaiusu and everyone else living in the vicinity of the area.
We are talking about Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Government’s plan to build the $250million tala Vaiusu Wharf, to be funded by China. The project has obviously generated a lot of discussions, not just locally but also outside Samoa.
Interestingly, up until this point, the Government has not bothered at all to consult with the people of Vaiusu about their plan. Which is ironic because that wharf, by the sound of things, is not going to be a small project and the people who will be most affected are the residents of Vaiusu.
Now stop for a moment and think about a sprawling $250 million tala wharf at Vaiusu. It’s not going to take up just the beach and foreshore. It’s not just a seawall kind of project where people would not have to worry about.
This is a massive undertaking, which is likely to see all those coastal residents living in Vaiusu and nearby Vailoa, Lepea, Vaitoloa and other areas affected.
What is going to happen to them? Are they going to be asked to move too, just like the people of Sogi?
On this Sunday, we want to remind the Government about the warning from Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, he made in an opinion pieced published on the pages of this newspaper, two Sundays ago.
Writes Toeolesulusulu: “We need the look at the other very real costs to the people of Samoa, these include relocating the majority families of the coastal side of villages from Toamua to Sogi.
“As many as 10-20,000 people and businesses in this part of Faleata will need to be relocated. This whole area will be monopolized for the construction and dedicated to the wharf solely when its operational.”
But that’s not all.
“The breadth and depth of environmental costs are infinite. Highlighting a few such as loss of biodiversity, loss of significant ecosystems, flooding, and increasing vulnerability to climate change natural disasters are too obvious not to highlight. The intricate balance between environmental issues and income and livelihood must be expressed.”
The question is; how much planning has actually gone into this grand dream? Looking at the Government’s dealing with Sogi, are they going to do same with Vaiusu too? And anyone else that stands in the way of their plan?
Only time will tell.
Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!