Alan Ah Mu
APIA: TUESDAY 30 APRIL 2013: Government appears to have caved in to sustained criticism over the plight of produce sellers left out in the sun and rain when Fugalei Market was demolished last year.
Government workers have been working late to prepare a section of the open space formerly occupied by the Fugalei Market for produce sellers.
Last night the iron roofing fence at the western end of the property was shifted eastwards where it forms a new enclosure.
The shift of the fence has created space of about a quarter acre, fenced off on its eastern, northern and southern sides.
The western side is open to the road, with Toleafoa Fa’afisi’s compound and Coin Save facing it from across the road.
A gate was constructed this morning as a link between the enclosure and the rest of the market space that stretch eastward towards Nia Mall.
The western enclosure is for produce sellers to occupy for business.
Farmer Nimarota Sagala selling taro on the sidewalk beside a traffic light at the western corner of the new enclosure said he was told this by Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) staff at work at the site this morning. ACC is in charge of the market.
Alongside Sagala were other taro sellers who’ve learnt of the same thing.
ACC staff at the site this morning directed inquiries to General Manager Malae’ulu Lose Niumata.
Malae’ulu was at a board meeting and could not be contacted.
But it seems Government has relented to pressure from farmers for space in town to sell their produce away from the sun and rain, their lot since facilities at the market were knocked down March last year.
It was done in anticipation of the construction of a replacement market building and associated facilities, which have not eventuated as several deadlines came and went.
Last heard ACC, which operates Fugalei Market, has settled on a more modest building of $10 million in cost, instead of the two storey $30 million affair originally announced.
The change cost taxpayers $3 million say Samoa Tautua Party.
Minister of ACC, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, said over the weekend it was $1.8 million.
After March last year, abandoned produce sellers and stall owners who sold meals found space at Toleafoa Fa’afisi’s compound across the road from the western end of Fugalei Market.
They soon spilled out to the side of the road exposed to the elements and the danger of passing traffic.
Others shifted north to space at the Va’ai compound and to the east a Nia Mall Market was created in response to appeals from produce and food sellers.
Head wrapped with clothe as a shield from the sun, Nimarota Sagala today sold his taro beside traffic lights, since Toleafoa’s compound across the road was full.
“You go there,” he said of the toilet, “and there is a queue.”
“At times the water doesn’t work.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi tried to brow beat farmers to take their crops to sell at Vaitele Market, about a 10-minute ride from Apia.
They argued as Sagala did today that no buses direct from his village went there.
There was a bus terminal at Fugalei Market where buses from all of Upolu Island stopped at to unload passengers, handicraft, crops and other produce for sale at stalls a short walk away. It’s the main attraction to sellers that Government has yet to figure out why the Vaitele market is unpopular.
Sagala said to get to Vaitele Market meant two bus rides and then he had to carry a sack of taro inland to where the market is.
From his village of Vaie’e, it cost $5 for the fare and $10 for a sack of taro.
Vaitele meant he got off at Lepea wait for another bus and pay another set of fares, then repeat the process at the end of the day.
In addition few buyers go to Vaitele Market because it is out of their way, said Sagala.
Opposition leader Palusalue Fa’apo II said of that market, “It’s in the wrong place.”
It should have been built closer to the main road at Vaitele, Palusalue said.