Samoan village leaders refuse Chinese tourism deal
Samoan village leaders turn down a proposal by a Chinese company for a tourism development project in fear of losing their land.
Village leaders of Sale'aula village in Samoa have turned down a proposal by a Chinese company for a tourism development project in fear of losing their land.
The last minute decision not to sign a lease agreement with Grand Ocean Ltd was a surprise to the village's Member of Parliament Levaopolo Talatonu Vaai who coordinated the deal.
He told Indira Moala the hotel project would have helped the district in terms of employment and financial stability.
LEVAOPOLO TALATONU VAAI: We planned out to start this year but unfortunately there were some problems with our village council. And unfortunately some people disagreed. And then I asked them why? and they said the Chinese may take their land. I explained to them the constitution - that no-one can take or buy customary land. But it's really hard to make them understand. So, you know the Chinese, they always think that time is money so they moved on to another project. So it's bad luck for my village.
INDIRA MOALA: Can you just explain what benefits this project would have brought to the village?
LTV: It would have employed everyone in the village and not only that, the village would develop their own farms like veggies and animals like pigs, chickens and all that - they would feed the hotel. Not only that, they can sell anything they want - like handicrafts and things like that. And the other thing, we talked with my partners from China - the village will get 2% of the profit share every year apart from the normal annual lease of $30,000.
IM: So you were a representative of the Company to the village - were you negotiating the deal on behalf of the Chinese company?
LTV: Correct. And that's the only way for me to monitor the project for my village. I want to stand on this side to make sure that we are paying everything to my village and take care of my village for this business with the Chinese people.
IM: What was the response of the local people in the village? Did they support this project and this deal with the Chinese company?
LTV: Yeah, I think 90 percent of the village they were all happy when I came and introduced this project for them. Because it's not for only them but for the future of my village. But only few people - especially those who are the speakers of the village, those were the only ones that decided to decline the project. Because I don't know what their reasons are. The thing that they said that the Chinese might take our land - that reason is not good enough, and I am thinking there's a lot of political tactics from these few people of the village. But unfortunately, they missed it. And I also told them this project is not for us in this time but it's for our children and the next generation in the future.
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