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Station surrounded during tense showdown

By Marieta Heidi Ilalio APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Feb. 20, 2010) – In Samoa, a police station was surrounded by angry villagers yesterday after a youth was arrested.

Earlier the village of Gataivai in Savai’i was in dispute with a family and four houses were burned to the ground.

[PIR editor’s note: Gataivai is a village on the island of Savai'i in Samoa. It is situated on the south east coast of the island in Palauli district. The population is estimated at approximately 1,200 people.]

The police arrested the youth in connection with the incident.

Then the villagers surrounded the police station at Tausivi.

Samoa Victim Support Group spokesperson Viliamu Paese said their case officer in Tuasivi helped save the day. This case officer, Namulauulu Filipo, said the police were scared.

"When I arrived at the police station, there were more than ten vehicles surrounding the police compound," Namulauulu said.

Namulauulu said the whole village was there.

He said what he was told by the police is Gataivai had a dispute with a family there and burned down four houses. "Which is why the police intervened because it’s against the law," Namulauulu said.

When the police went to Gataivai on the day these houses were burned, the village chased them away.

Namulauulu said a young man from Gataivai was at the Salelologa wharf on Thursday when the police arrested him and took him in.

"This is what made the village angry and they planned to come straight to the police station for a war," he said.

Namulauulu in a telephone interview said it was lucky he arrived there before the villagers did what they intended.

"I’ve spoken to the chiefs of Gataivai and also the police," he said. "I begged the village to keep the peace and told them the police were only doing their duty."

Namulauulu said he also talked to the police and he was told they were doing what they had to do, because what Gataivai did was against the law.

He said the villagers were angry because the police arrested what they said was an innocent young man for no reason.

"I just thanked God the villagers left without anybody being hurt," Namulauulu said.

"By looking at why the village was there, they were really keen for a war with the police at Tuasivi."

The Police Commissioner was not available for comment yesterday nor was the Chief of Police in Savai’i.

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