Residents hail govt’s decision

By Ilia L. Likou 20 April 2016, 12:00AM

Sogi residents who accepted the offer from the government to relocate to Falelauniu have nothing but praise for the decision.

Made in 2011, the decision saw several families from the swampy part of the Apia township relocate to higher land. What’s more, the land they are occupying – once they finish paying it off – becomes their asset.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer yesterday, a mother of eight, Meleane Perenise, said it’s the best decision they made.

“It’s been six years since we moved here and it’s a life changing experience for us,” she said.

“Here, we finally built our own house, plant taro and banana as much as we can and we have no worries about natural disasters and so forth.”

Back in Sogi, she said the swampy conditions made life very difficult.

“It was hard because we didn’t have much land to work,” she said.

 “But here at Falelauniu, the land is enough for us, we have good neighbors and the water supply is 24/7 everyday…we have everything here with us,

“At Sogi during the rainy season, we experienced what you could refer to as living in a slum. The air was bad and polluted and we put up with that for many years.

“Now the government has stepped in and helped … we’re grateful for the offer because it has been a wonderful new beginning for us.”

Mrs. Perenise said that the location makes it easier for some members of her family to find jobs with nearby companies.

“When we were called to relocate here at the very first time, I thought, it would be too hard for my children to find a job, but looking at the increasing number of companies that have been set up in this area now, it makes everything much easier.

“I am hoping that soon or later, the government will build a school in this area.”

The decision by the government to relocate residents of Sogi was initially announced in 2011. 

The government then offered families a quarter acre of land at Falelauniu which they will ‘lease to own’ at just over $30,000 and $3,000 cash to relocate.

Many families at Sogi have taken up the offer. 

But many others have refused.

Last Sunday, a 68-year-old-mother and grandmother, Tala Lei’ataua made a heartfelt plea to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

“Please let us stay on this land,” she said. “This is where we belong. Our ancestors have worked so hard to level this swamp during the German colonial times for us. We want to stay.”

Should the government insist to evict them, Tala said: “I ask the government to dig a hole and throw us all in there. I’d rather die and be buried on the land my ancestors passed down to us.” 

The family of the elderly mother is among more than thirty families at Sogi who face eviction by the government, years after they were told to relocate to Falelauniu. 

The families have been warned for the last time to relocate on their own, without being forcefully removed. They have been given 30 days to move.

 “Everything that they (government) offered doesn’t mean anything. Nothing can compensate for the sweat and tears of our ancestors who helped to raise this swamp to what it is today.

“We’re ready to die on our land. If the government wants to still evict us from here soon, they can do whatever they want to do. But before they evict us, I’m asking them to dig a hole so we can all be thrown in there with our children.”

Speaking about the issue during a Parliament session years ago, Tuilaepa said the standard of living for residents of Sogi will improve if they relocate.

“There is not enough land to grow crops for families to rely on,” Tuilaepa said at the time.  “The only importance of land located inside town (like Sogi) is that it is convenient for transport.”

More than 10 acres have been allocated to the 33 Sogi families to shift to, each getting a quarter acre to buy, Tuilaepa said at the time.

“This will benefit them,” said the Prime Minister. “There is now bigger land to grow food in.”

By Ilia L. Likou 20 April 2016, 12:00AM

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