Armed police officers sent in at Satapuala land dispute
More than 50 Samoa police officers, some armed with shot guns were lined up — some seemed to be laying in wait — along the main road to the Faleolo International Airport following a road block by the Satapuala Village council, which started Tuesday Samoa time.
The roadblock is a result of the Samoa Government’s intention to build a multimillion dollar hospital funded by the U.S. on land, which Satapuala claims belong to them and was taken from them by the Samoa government. It’s located across for the international airport.
Reports from an eyewitness at the scene who asked not to be identified says the road block earlier in the morning halted traffic, which caused a delay for people who were scheduled to depart Samoa for New Zealand.
“Members of the public who were heading to the airport had to wait for hours and hours, the people had to call police and finally the Satapuala village decided to let the general public through after the long wait” she said.
Reports out of Apia have it that flights to New Zealand were delayed as a result of passengers being late to check in. The witness told Samoa News that a contingent of police officers headed to Satapuala in police vehicles, fire vehicles and ambulance emergency vehicles.
“When the police officers arrived they were armed and they cleared the Satapuala road block in the afternoon.” Samoa Government employees are finally surveying the land while police officers are providing security, said a witness.
Government officials told Samoa News the deadline which the United States of America gave the Samoa government is tomorrow, and if they do not have the land surveyed by then, they will pull back the funding, which was allocated for a new hospital in Satapuala.
One witness told Samoa News over the phone that the road block had banners, and rocks were lined on the road blocking the vehicles from entering into Satapuala earlier in the day, before police officers disbursed the villagers.
One banner stated “Tuilaepa this is Satapuala’s land from God”, another banner states “Satapuala will not back down from what belongs to them.”
Samoa Police Commissioner Lilomaiva Fou Taialo, who was at the scene declined to comment when he was contacted by Samoa News yesterday.
Last week, more than a hundred Samoa police officers went to Satapuala under the order of the Prime Minister to survey the land, however they were not allowed into Satapuala. The police officers were led by Samoa Police Commissioner, Lilomaiva. The Samoa Police were approached by the Satapuala village council, who noted that they were surprised to see the police officers in Satapuala, given they had an agreement with the Prime Minister.
“Our agreement with Tuilaepa was that our village is to appoint a committee to deal with him and his people which was the next step — however what Tuilaepa did has betrayed their trust.”
Among the police contingent who visited Satapuala last week were Assistant Police Commissioners Le’aupepe Fatu Pula, Lei’ataua Aviga Salale and Sala Seaga Uili.
As Samoa News reported earlier, Tuilaepa has vowed to continue with plans for a hospital to be constructed in Satapuala, opposite the Faleolo International Airport, despite opposition from the village of Satapuala.
The Prime Minister stated that “the land does not belong to Satapuala… I don’t know how many times we must make this clear to Satapuala. Regardless of their bans, the government plan to build the hospital will proceed.”
“Satapuala has gone to the Court so many times regarding the land, and the Court has made it abundantly clear that the land belongs to the Government. That is the end of it.”
In a ruling in which the Supreme Court of Samoa upheld a strike out motion by STEC against a land compensation claim by Satapuala, the same ruling also struck out the village council’s claim for the return of more than eight thousand acres of land situated at Faleolo opposite the international airport.
The Satapuala Village Council claimed the disputed land was unlawfully sold during the German and New Zealand administrations. But the Supreme Court ruled that prior to 1889, there was no legislation controlling or prohibiting the alienation of land in Samoa.