Satapuala Village Petitions Samoa Government To Return Lands

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Colonial holdings allegedly distributed illegally after independence

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, May 31, 2012) – On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Samoa’s independence, at least one village is not in a celebratory mood.

Satapuala continues the fight to reclaim land taken it says was taking illegally during the colonial rule.

During a press conference staged outside the main gates into Faleolo International Airport, yesterday, about 200 chiefs and orators of Satapuala called on the ruling HRPP Government, New Zealand and Germany to do the "right thing."

"We humbly call on the citizens of Samoa, at the event of celebrating 50 years of Independence, to support our call on government to return all land under STEC and SLC back to the chiefs and orators of the individual villages affected, including Satapuala," said Muagututia Akeripa Toalepaiali’i.

Whereas STEC stands for Samoa Trust Estate Corporation, SLC stands for the Samoa Land Corporation. It was not possible to obtain a comment from both government bodies yesterday.

But Muagututia called for a Commission of Enquiry to look at returning all lands held by government back to the villages.

Satapuala’s Member of Parliament, Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster agrees. He told of how "the Germans took land and some land was sold."

Pressed to elaborate, he said during the New Zealand administration, land was taken under the Lands for Defence Ordinance 1939 with the understanding that it would be returned at the end of the war.

The New Zealand government changed the law to allow for the land not to be returned to Satapuala.

According to the MP, their village claims that nearly 60 percent of this land was then handed over to the Western Samoa Trust Estates Corporation.

"We are still trying to fathom why the New Zealand government did not return the land to Satapuala," he said.

He pointed at the "compensation" government claims it has given Satapuala and said, "Compensation is not compensation because government still owns the land we are living on."

The United States government is clearly in the sights of Satapuala and they are hoping they can get some assistance from them in securing their lands again.

"The last encounter Satapuala had with the United States government was when they came in with bulldozers to clear our homes for the airport and now it looks like the next encounter will be when they come to take more of our land for a proposed new government hospital."

Toeolesulusulu also said that it was time the New Zealand government acknowledged "what they have done to our land."

"We are not a village with money but we appeal to the New Zealand government’s sense of humanity to assist us to get our God -given heritage back," he said.

Earlier, Muagututia spoke at length on the alienation of their village lands.

He explained how the German company DPHG took land between 1860 and 1886, "sold for weapons used for the fight for Samoan Independence."

"Some land was bought by other Samoans without knowledge of Satapuala chiefs and orators."

Muagututia said that since 1960, his village has asked for the land to be returned but "to this day nothing has been forthcoming."

"We continue to wonder why government has not seen fit to return our land but has instead moved to lease the land to those from outside.

"Even though the court has rejected our claim, the belief lives on, and the movement to reclaim our heritage will continue."

Nearly 200 matai and other Satapuala villagers were in attendance at the press conference.

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