Sogi relocation and a question relevant to all Samoans

And so some families at Sogi have finally agreed to relocate. The story published in the Samoa Observer last week, which revealed that some descendants of Tokuma have agreed to move to Tafa’igata, showed that there is movement on that front, finally.

It comes after a long-standing battle between the Government and the families at Sogi, spearheaded by Nanai Tokuma and his family. The bitter row included a lawsuit, which the Government had won.

Since then, the Government, through the Samoa Land Corporation, had given the families countless ultimatums to move. The last day of 2019 was the final ultimatum.

For Nanai Tokuma and his family, they are not moving at all. He has made that very clear despite losing the Court battle. In fact he has publically stated that the Government would have to bury him and family first before they can proceed with their plans to use the land at Sogi for a new market and other related developments.

But other family members have changed their minds. Take Eleni Timo for instance. The 39-year-old mother who grew up in Sogi told us last week that the decision was not an easy given the fact Sogi is the only village they have ever known.

“It was hard to make the decision [to leave] because my mother is 72-years-old and she told me she will stay here,” Ms. Timo said. “I personally feel that my decision to write my name on that paper to move is me thinking about my children’s future."

According Ms. Timo, the Government’s concerns about Sogi in relation to climate change and sea level rising are legitimate. This is one of the motivating factors behind their decision.

 “When the tide rises here the water comes up to the doorstep of the house and I fear that one day one of my young children might drown here,” she said. “It’s for the best [to relocate].”

She added that despite her 72-year-old mother’s protests about leaving Sogi, she is adamant she will take her with them.

“I won't leave her here alone. My mother can’t walk, her legs are not good but I will do what I can to take her with me.”

Well that would be a difficult challenge, wouldn’t it?

It is easy to understand Ms. Timo’s mother’s predicament. At that ripe old age, Sogi has been her home. She has grown up, worked the land and told herself that she belongs there.

And now all of a sudden she is told the land she lives on does not belong to her and that she has no choice but to move. That must be the hardest thing anyone at that age would have to accept.

But that’s the reality of what is happening at Sogi. Many of us have closely followed the developments at Sogi from day one. The developments have been fascinating to watch up until this point.

To be frank, Nanai Tokuma and the people of Sogi have put up a very brave fight, especially against a very powerful Government that has shown nothing could stand in their way. The mere fact that Nanai continues to oppose the move shows a man who does not give up easily.

It would be very interesting to see what happens when the Samoa Land Corporation will finally move to build the new market at Sogi. Will they get the Police to move Nanai and his family? And what if they don’t obey?

Now thinking of the people who have agreed to move, it’s not going to be all roses. We doubt that the Government is giving them a windfall to start a new life.

Which is a shame. We have to remember that for most residents of Sogi, their bread and butter comes from the sea and what they fished out of the mangroves. That’s where the money came from to feed their families, pay the children's school fees and to cater for the everyday demands of Samoan life.

So you remove them from their source of income and what is there to replace that? The Tafaigata rubbish dump?

The point is a government that truly cares for its people would have taken the trouble to ensure these people are not just relocated. It would have made sure their welfare is looked after. Some form of planning – and community consultation with the people affected the most – would have gone a long way to make this a smooth transition.

Sadly, there has been very little of that. What we have seen at Sogi has been typical of a Government ruling with an iron fist.

Now here is a question for you and I. If the Government could do that at Sogi, what guarantee do we have that it will not do the same to you and me? Think about people living at Mulinu’u, the coastlines of Apia and on land that could be of interest to the Government?

Have a safe Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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