Samoa Village Rejects Chinese Tourism Project

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Fear of losing their lands leads to last minute pull-out

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Oct. 30, 2014) – The Alii ma Faipule of Sale’aula village in Savai’i has turned down the proposal by a Chinese company for a tourism development project in their village for fear of losing their lands.

The Alii ma Faipule supported the idea when it was first proposed to them in 2012 by their Member of Parliament Levaopolo Talatonu Vaai.

According to Levaopolo, the project planned for Sale’aula was a hotel to be built on a 4 acres land at the coastal side of the village.

"It would feature floating units and a water park already drawn into the plan utilizing nature’s natural resources," said Levaopolo.

The Chinese company the Grand Ocean Company Ltd approached Levaopolo with the idea and targeting the beautiful island off-coast the coast of Sale’aula village.

Levaopolo then contacted the four top decision makers from four sub villages – fuaiala - of Sale’aula for a meeting to discuss the proposal.

"My intention was to talk to the top four first so by the time the whole village meets, they would understand where I was coming from," said Levaopolo.

However, the village never met due to a decision by the four decision makers who believed the four of them represent the village as a whole.

A decision was then made that they would come to Apia to meet with the lawyers and sign the agreement allowing Grand Ocean to lease 4 acres of land from Saleaula.

Levaopolo said he decided not to be part of the village but rather, a representative of the company.

"That way I could monitor that the village was being treated well with the deal," said Levaopolo.

Levaopolo also asked the village to set up a committee to monitor the deal.

On the week of the endorsement of the deal, Levaopolo had to travel overseas for a family commitments leaving the village committee to deal with the lawyers.

"I heard from New Zealand that the village had pulled out of the deal," said Levaopolo.

"They pulled out at the last minute when they were about to sign the lease agreement with the company," said Levaopolo.

"I was told that they decided against the development because they were afraid the Chinese company might take their land," said Levaopolo.

According to Levaopolo, the project was supposed to help the village and the district in terms of employment and financial stability.

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