SHOWDOWN SET IN SAMOA LAND DISPUTE

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By Alan Ah Mu

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Oct. 21) – Villagers who have moved in on land under the Samoa Trust Estates Corporation (STEC) control at Satapuala have until tomorrow to vacate the property.

[PIR editor’s note: Satapuala is located at the western end of Upolu, Samoa’s main island. The area hosts Faleolo International Airport. ]

"It was reported by my workers on Monday that they had entered (the land)," Chief Executive Officer of STEC, Fonoiava Seali’itusegasega, said yesterday.

Fonoiava said a letter was delivered to Satapuala on Wednesday saying that if the property is not vacated within five days, the matter would be referred to the law.

He said the letter was delivered to Toalepaiali’i Toeolesulusulu Suafaiga Siueva Pose Salesa III.

Toalepaiali’i is the highest ranking matai of Satapuala.

Fonoiava said this was the peaceful way of handling the matter.

The CEO, who is ill, was speaking from his hospital bed.

Attempts to contact Toalepaiali’i yesterday and the day before were unsuccessful.

Yesterday morning, his wife said she did not know where Toalepaiali’i had gone to.

Attempts also to talk to the orator of Satapuala, Tauvalaau, failed yesterday and the day before.

Tauvalaau’s wife said yesterday morning that her husband was at work.

But he had left instructions to inform the media that all inquiries regarding the land issue are to be referred to Satapuala’s lawyer.

She did not know who the lawyer is.

Satapuala have occupied land stretching from opposite Faleolo International Airport westward along the main road towards Mulifanua Wharf.

They have announced their occupation by the planting a row of bananas near the stone fence facing the main road, putting up four Samoan-styled huts or faleo’o, and removing undergrowth by machete and burning.

Coconut trees have been felled with some of the trunks used for building the faleo’o.

Yesterday morning, two villagers were clearing undergrowth with machete.

Though the Satapuala leadership could not be contacted yesterday, it has been known for years that the village lays claim to the land they have now occupied.

Or at least Toalepaiali’i does.

He claims the land, which consists of thousands of acres now under state-owned STEC, historically belongs to them.

In January last year, he said he had asked Government for its return and if there was no reply by 28 February that year, "we interpret as acceptance of our proposal," he said.

Toalepaiali’i said they would "Occupy, reside, develop, the land and it’s resources.

"After all they are mine."

At that time last year, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoli’ai Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said no petition for a return of land has reached Government.

Nothing happened after Toalepaiali’i’s deadline.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa was not immediately available for comments.

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