Land dispute deadlock

Families the Government had threated to evict from land at Satapuala continue to remain there as talks over a dispute regarding land ownership appear to have hit a deadlock.

Attempts by the Samoa Observer to get a comment from the Samoa Trust Estate Corporation (S.T.E.C.) on the status of the matter has been unsuccessful.

Questions remain unanswered.

The Samoa Observer, however, understands that S.T.E.C. is working with the Attorney General’s Office on the next steps. 

At the beginning of the year, the Government threatened to remove several families who remain on the land, accusing them of trespassing.

The land in question is where the Government intends to extend the Faleolo International Airport runway across.  

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has publically threatened that they will take the families in question to Court.

Among them is the Tauvala’au family, who said they were told to leave by 28 February 2018.   The order was confirmed by Tua’ato Tauvala'au Salausa, of Satapuala. 

But the family said unless the Government pays them $1 million, they are not going anywhere. 

Another family living on the land, Logolelei Su’a, has questioned the legality of the 1983 agreement signed between the Government and their family chief, the late Toalepaialii Toeolesulusulu Siueva. 

The 64-year-old mother said her 11 children and more than 50 grandchildren all grew up on that land.  

“I am not leaving my house, I should have been told by the Government and our Chief about the agreement,” she said.  

“It is true that he was our Chief, but the Government should have done their due diligence and informed us about the agreement. 

“So I am not moving and I will not let the Government relocate us from a place where we’ve lived most of our lives.  

“Samoans treasure their lands and Chiefly titles and why would we agree to relocate when this is our land, our inheritance from our ancestors. 

As reported earlier, Tuilaepa said the Government has already paid relocation costs to the families.  

“It’s been 35 years since the Government and Satapuala Village Council signed an agreement for the exchange of land,” Tuilaepa said.  

The Government was given 22 acres by the Village Council and in return they were given 44 acres. He added that when they wrapped up the negotiations, the Government handed over 64 acres.  

“The Government has honoured our side of the agreement, but Satapuala residents took their time. The main reason behind the decision is for their own safety, given the said location is near the airport runway.  

“The said area is covered in the pathway of any incoming and outgoing airplane.  Under safety regulations, it is necessary for the families to relocate, hence the exchange of lands with compensation in addition to the lands.   

“At the time, their Member of Parliament and all of the Village Chiefs signed this agreement.  They’ve signed the agreement then turned around and stirred up trouble.

 “We are doing our part in keeping them safe because it is our responsibility, even in protecting them for their stupidity, protecting them for their falling.”  

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