Heavy Police presence for Sogi survey
A long-standing land dispute between the Tokuma family and the Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.) drew a heavy Police presence to Sogi on Tuesday as the Corporation surveyed the area.
Police Superintendents Auapa’au Logoitino Filipo and Leiataua Samuelu Afamasaga enabled the S.L.C. to survey the area after several previous failed attempts when the Tokuma family prohibited anyone from entering the area.
Last week, Supreme Court Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa issued an ex-parte interim prohibition order on Aiga Tokuma and her family of Sogi.
The order was signed on 14 February, 2020.
The S.L.C. Chief Executive Officer, Ulugia Petelo Kavesi, said they met with the Tokuma family and the Police who were informed the Government would pursue their survey.
“We met and concluded that S.L.C. will carry out its survey in the presence of the police and despite a little scuffle earlier on, in the end it was peaceful," Ulugia said.
“This is the first move to survey the land and there’s more to come later."
The majority of the families in the area have relocated to Tafa’igata where they are leasing Government property; an arrangement that will be renewed every 20 years.
In Sogi, Leilua Tokuma expressed dismay about the heavy Police presence.
“I was shocked to see the many Police cars, as if we were criminals," Leilua said.
“There was verbal disagreement in the beginning; and later on the parties resolved the matter and the S.L.C. were allowed to conduct the survey."
However Superintendent Auapa’au told the Samoa Observer they were there to assure the court order issued for the Government survey was implemented peaceably.
"Our main concern is the safety of the parties and for the survey to be conducted peacefully," the Superintendent said.
“Regarding the eviction order today, you asked about, today was not for that. “We were there as per request from the S.L.C. to assist and for the safety of both sides [S.L.C. and Tokuma family], we attended.
“And to say there was heavy presence of the police is an overstatement. We assigned close to 20 police officers and it was not to intimidate anyone, it was the total opposite. We were there to assure no one gets hurt."
He said the Police will assist the S.L.C. with the continuation of the survey of the land in question.
Auapa’au declined to disclose details of the meeting held between the Tokuma and the S.L.C. earlier in the day.
Leilua Tokuma told the Samoa Observer there family will not move no matter the consequences.
“No matter what the outcome will be, our family will always heed the advice from my mother and her siblings [who will arrive from Auckland and Australia this coming Friday] and if they say we will die in Sogi, then so be it. We will die in this place,” said Leilua.
Last year, contrary to repeated warnings that families in Sogi will be evicted if they don't move, 69-year-old Aiga Tokuma, said unless the Government kills her family, they will not move.
“They can dig a mass grave and bury us in it, or kill us," she said.
"Only then they [the Government] can occupy this land; but we will not go down without a fight."
According to Leilua there is another hearing in court on March 9 for the matter, which the family is still fighting the Government for control of the land.
Leilua is the son of Aiga Tokuma, who said the Tokuma generations were raised on the land in question.
Her older brother, Nanai Liutofagaomataafa Tokuma, has been leading the family’s fight against the Government’s decision to evict residents. Nanai believes the land they are living on is their inheritance.
In 2018, the Court of Appeal dismissed the lawsuit against the Samoa Land Corporation by the Tokuma family. The family was ordered to pay the respondent costs of $5,000 together with reasonable disbursements.