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Land for Samoa hospital still raising eyebrows

Ten acres of land seized by gun-wielding Police officers two months ago for the construction of a hospital in Satapuala, has caused raised eyebrows once again.Villagers nearby question why the Government was in such a hurry to clear the area – through the use of the Police force and guns - when a few months later, nothing has materialised.As of yesterday, the grass in the area had grown back. Tree shoots have started to resurface since work there stopped in early September.Residents told the Sunday Samoan that since the Police left the area two weeks after they moved in, they have not been back since.One of the residents who has been closely following the developments is Satapuala’s Pulenu’u (mayor), Ga Sakaria. Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, he said he is disappointed.“If you remember the manner in which the Police took over this piece of land, it was a very sad day for this village,” he said. “Our lives were put in danger when the Police came with their guns. They forced their way onto the land and immediately they started clearing it.At that time, Ga said they thought the Government was to build the hospital right away.“We thought that maybe the government was in such a hurry to build the hospital that they needed to use guns to get to the land.“But we are very disappointed since the work stopped soon after. Now if you look at the land, it’s back to where it was. Satapuala’s question is, why was there a need to forcefully clear the land? Was all that show of power necessary?“When you think about all the money that was spent clearing the land, it’s been wasted. Now they’ll have to do it again.”In August, the Satapuala Village Council occupied the land as part of a long-standing dispute with the Government over what they claim as customary land.The protest led to a roadblock by armed villagers, which the Government felt had threatened the safety of members of the public.So Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi ordered armed Police officers in full riot gear to remove the roadblock. On the same day, the Police took control of the area from Satapuala. Heavy machinery was brought to the area to begin landscaping work.For one week, Police were stationed in the area to oversee the work.Fast forward to today, Ga said the state of the land is back to square one.“Work suddenly ceased,” Ga said. “We haven’t been approached by any government officials as to why this has happened.“The last time work was done was two weeks after the protest.”That was in early October.