Group determined to save the old Court House
A not-for-profit organisation behind a campaign to save Samoa’s old Court House on Beach Road is determined to push ahead with its plans.
But it wants to sit down with the Government first to discuss a proposal that they’ve formulated on how to save the historical building.
Samoa Tofia Mai le Atua (S.T.M.A. Inc.) Executive Board Chair, Taloto Obed Unasa, said the proposal is ready to go and timing is of the essence as discussions have progressed since Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi announced on national television that the new building will maintain the same colonial design, but would be stronger as it would be constructed from steel and modern material.
"We have a proposal that’s all ready to go and actually to present it to Government officials, so the timing is really really important because obviously the Government had some discussion with some committee members that we know of, and those people are also supporting the campaign," Taloto said.
"So the Government has done a U-turn on that and said no, we’re going to do something else, we have to then come back to that discussion and go, well the Government has agreed on something which obviously was going to be part of the waterfront and we want to know what changed there," he said in an interview with the Samoa Observer.
Taloto stressed that the Government needed to get consent before the start of any works on the historical building, which he said should be reason the people are educated of the processes that the Government should take for such works.
He said compliance with the PUMA Act 2004 is another issue the Government should consider.
"The other thing we have to come back to is the PUMA Act 2004 where the Government has to comply with the board, and take into consideration the historical cultural, architectural and scientific important significance of that building.
"All of that is part of the nation’s history so it’s owned by the people. Not by any Government, not by any investor whatever, it’s a collective ownership that we’re talking about. So the campaign has raised those issues of history legality of it and the people’s rights around the building and the people who own the land,” he said.
The involvement of the UNESCO — which specialises in protecting national heritage landmarks globally and often assists local authorities — was also highlighted by Taloto.
"So combine that together, we’re wanting to raise the awareness around the importance of that process, what the Government is doing about that process — there needs to be a building consent by the Government to actually do anything to the building legally.
"So if we decided to go, ‘well we can produce this, we can bring in people, and agencies and organizations who will fund the whole project’, the thing we want, is for the Government to support it. If we get the Government to support it, then we would say, ‘look if the money is such an issue with the government because of whatever reason; leave it to Samoans outside and in Samoa to work on it together'.
"And that’s the way to go though, it’s to do the work together. The government’s obviously got other priorities in other areas but the thing is that collectively, we can save the building, restore the building, make it more community friendly, like turn it into a restaurant. We’ve got the agencies there who’s going to come and support it but we want the government to support it as well, because when we work together the work is easy," he added.
The group will be hosting a gathering opposite the old Courthouse this Friday at 10.00am.
According to a representative, Tulatoa Tracy Nelson-Sauvao, more than 350,000 people locally and globally have been interacting with them and support their campaign.
"So we’ve got people coming in, were all going to gather there on the opposite side of the court house for information and trying to make the Government know that we are there, and we want to save the Courthouse, that’s is our immediate agenda.
"We have to open up discussions, so we need to open up discussions like ourselves or with the Samoa Tofia and with government to sit down and the process is very important.
"Immediate concern is that action right now is to take it down but no discussions have been made and we have to stop that and come up with ideas, as Obed has already said, there’s already a proposal so we just have to have the opportunity to present that proposal," she said.