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Siva Afi’s four-year struggle for justice ends with $1.7m payout from Samoa court

Leota Lene struggled against tears and for coherence as he tried to explain the emotional toll of the four-year ordeal to find justice.“It wasn’t easy for me and my family,” said Leota.Publicity of his battle against Government over the forced eviction of Siva Afi, the business he and wife Clare created, from leased public land at Sogi was widespread and prolonged and reached overseas.“My family, they were very embarrassed,” said Leota.His sisters and family in New Zealand found the repeated mention in the media of Siva Afi’s case against Government tiresome.What drove Leota and Clare on was a conviction in the rightfulness of their cause, a belief the court would see the injustice hurled against them and the awful realisation that if Government can treat them so badly, it would do the same to others.But Leota singled out the then Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga as the sole cause of their distress.“What has happened had nothing to do with Government, it was just between us and Faumuina Liuga,” he said.Faumuina, he said, worked for the United Nations, a peacemaker, yet returned to Samoa and became a troublemaker.“We are not animals.”Power or “muscle” was in the end beaten by the law – by what is right, said the director of Siva Afi.This week the final payment out of $1, 769, 332.90 awarded by the Appeal Court of Samoa was made to Siva Afi.It was compensation for the termination of the company’s lease at Sogi in 2009.FULL COURT DECISION CLICK Judgement – Siva Afi 1Angry and sadAt times showing traces of anger, Leota said he was mostly sad about events.“This was the money we argued for from the start,” he said.In the spirit of mutual respect, a basic principle in relations between Samoans, they approached Faumuina with the attitude of “Let’s talk; there’s no reason for us to go to court.”Instead they faced evasion and public criticism from Government.Government went a step further and amended the Taking of Land Act in October 2009 in order to evict Siva Afi from Sogi on 16 November 2009.Government, in particular Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment – which controlled the land in question – wanted the company out years before the expiry of a lease agreement to make way for the building now named after the Head of State to be built there.