Sogi resident defies P.M.
Sogi resident Nanai Liu Tokuma is resolute.
“We’re not going anywhere,” the 76-year-old father told the Samoa Observer.
“Thank you Prime Minister Tuilaepa for your warning that we now have to leave. But let me tell you something, you know nothing about this piece of land. So leave us alone.”
Nanai made the comments in response to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s call that the time is up for them and that they now have to vacate the land.
Tuilaepa said a 30-day eviction notice given to the Sogi residents has expired and there will be no more chances. He did not say what the government’s next move would be. But Nanai is defiant and is not moving.
“For your information, this land was given to our father, the late Tokuma Torurae by the late Mata’afa - the first Prime Minister of this country,” he said. “With his words to my father – ‘Go live on the land with your children; the government can’t afford to pay what we owe your father, now the land is yours forever.”
Asked to elaborate, Nanai said his father had been mistakenly charged for the death of another businessman.
“He was sentenced to death,” he said. “I remembered vividly when our father said goodbye to us with his hands already handcuffed, ready to be executed. His hands were already tied, with a rope on his neck and cloth that covered his face.
“While walking towards where he would be hung, two Chinese men ran and told the Police that they were the ones who killed the businessman. My father’s life was spared.
“My father walked out free while fighting back tears right in front of us and our mother… that’s why we were offered this land where we’re living now.”
According to Nanai, the Prime Minister at the time gave them the piece of land as a peace offering.
“He told my father in front of us that ‘the government doesn’t have money to pay him but they offer him and his children this land for their rest of their lives.
“That’s why we’ve been living here.
"And now after all these years, the government is telling us to go away.
What’s worse is that they are asking us to buy a piece of land at Falelauniu when we have no money to do that.”
Nanai said he rejects the offer.
“I heard they’re going to build a hotel here. This is on the land that we were for the life of our father. We’ve invested large amounts of money in developing our homes and families for many years.”
Referring to the warning from the government, Nanai said that Prime Minister Tuilaepa was just a young man at the time and he would not understand.
“What’s very sad is that after the past four prime ministers, it’s only Tuilaepa who has jumped into this conclusion and told us to go to Falelauniu,” he said. “Not only that, he is telling us to buy land when they are not giving us any money.
“We’re not going to pay for anything, we’re not stupid,
“The government told us to relocate to Falelauniu because of climate reasons but I heard that they’re planning to build a hotel here.”
Nanai said if push comes to shove, they would take their fight to Court.
“I know the government has all the power in running the government. I don’t care still, we have all the right to fight for this land.”
It was not possible to get a comment from Prime Minister Tuilaepa or the Samoa Land Corporation yesterday.
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.
Two months ago, an elderly mother, Tala Leiataua, issued a heartfelt plea to Prime Minister Tuilaepa.
“We’re ready to face the consequences – but – we want to be buried on this land, Tuilaepa, this land is where our grave is,” she said.
“Please let us stay on this land. 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, 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.”