“This is where I’ve lived all my life, and this is where I’ll be buried. This land is our grave.” – Tala Leiataua
This is a sad story. On 5 May 2016, the residents of Sogi - that relatively peaceful seaside community on the Mulinu’u Peninsula – received what would have been a rather frightening letter from the government’s Samoa Land Corporation (S.L.C.).
It said: “Today is the last day of the 30-day notice given to you to relocate.
“We will abide by the law as stated in our Letter of Eviction. That’s all we can say for now until further notice.”
Which follows that it seems pretty clear the eviction being talked about could be carried out at any time from when the letter was received.
And so for those who are not aware, the Sogi community being discussed here is made up of some thirty families.
They are descendants of Solomon Islanders who were brought over by the Germans during the First World War, somewhere in the early nineties.
Samoa was a German protectorate at the time, and for that reason – among others I imagine - it was named German Samoa.
This is to say that all the descendants of Solomon Islanders who are living at Sogi today – or anywhere else in Samoa for that matter - are Samoan citizens by birth.
Now going back to the government’s letter, which law are they referring to when they said: ““We will abide by the law as stated in our Letter of Eviction?
All we know is that this country’s Supreme Law is quite clear about what its citizens’ rights are, regarding freedom of speech, assembly, association, movement and residence.
In the case before us, Section 13(d) is quite clear. It says: All citizens of Samoa shall have the right to move freely throughout Samoa and to reside in any part thereof.
It cannot be made any clearer than that.
And as far as we’re aware, that part of this country’s Supreme Law has not been changed? Or perhaps it has been without our knowledge, and so in that case then please enlighten us, someone.
The question then is: Why is the government so keen on evicting the residents of Sogi from that spot on the Mulinu’u Peninsula? Does it have plans for the Sogi area in mind that it is not telling the public at this stage anyway?
Indeed, Is there method in thy madness* Tuilaepa, and if so, why is it that you are not telling the public about it?
All we know is that our Prime Minister has expressed his concern about Sogi being struck by a tsunami or a tidal wave somewhere in the future, which is why there is this rush by his government to see Sogi residents evicted and relocated elsewhere.
Now that is very caring of him anyway.
From experience though, Sogi has never been hit by any of the tsunamis or tidal waves we’ve had in the past, and the reason is simple enough.
The Sogi beachfront is located in an area of ocean that is strategically protected by a reef chain surrounding the northern side of Upolu, so that any approaching tsunami or tidal wave is smartly warded off by those reefs, and soon what’s left is a placid, slow-moving ocean of water that is incapable of causing anyone - let alone the seaside land mass called Sogi - any harm.
This is to say we have been around this place all our lives so that we should know.
Which is also why we were not surprised when the public’s reaction to the government’s reasons for evicting the residents of Sogi, was that of stunned confusion.
They too wanted to know why an eviction would be warranted.
And now that suspicion is inevitable, the question is: What exactly is brewing within the halls of power in the country founded on God, that the rest have yet to be told about?
And then the residents of Sogi spoke up, among whom was an old man who asked not to be named, he said: “Whatever decision the government will come up with, we are not going anywhere.
“This is where we belong and this is where we will stay.”
The man said he had been told about the government’s Letter of Eviction, but then evicted or not, it did not matter, “it would not change anything.
“We are aware of the consequences but we will stay here until they come and move us,” he said.
And then there is Tala Leiataua, an elderly mother who says she’s been living in Sogi all her life, and at her age, she does not want to move anywhere.
And now addressing Prime Minister, Tuilapea Sailele Malielegaoi, she’s pleading with him, saying:
“Please let us stay on this land. This is where we belong. Our ancestors worked hard to level this swamp during the German colonial times for us. Please we want to stay.”
However, should the government insist on evicting her and her family, Tala says she will not move away. She is determined to stay on her family land, and this is her final request: “I ask the government to dig a hole and throw us all in there.
“I’d rather die and be buried in the land my ancestors had passed down to us.
“We’re ready to face the consequences Tuilaepa, but we want to be buried in this land.
“This is where I’ve lived all my life, and this is where I’ll be buried.
“This land is our grave.”
* Is there method in thy madness.
From Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’.
When he picked the side I thought he must be crazy but, judging by their performance this season, there’s obviously method in his madness.