Passengers from an Air New Zealand flight have witnessed an
armed standoff between police and protesters outside an
international airport in Samoa, it has been reported.
Up to a hundred police, some of whom allegedly fired shots
into the air, moved in on protesters who had blocked a road
using boulders near the Faleolo International Airport, 40km
west of Apia.
Some of the protesters, from the small village of Satapuala
opposite the airport, were wearing masks and reportedly
brandishing machetes during the clash.
The group was protesting against a proposal by the Samoan
government to build a US-funded hospital in the village.
The clash happened on Friday afternoon in front of tourists
leaving the airport, Samoa's Weekend Observer reported.
Passengers from an Air New Zealand flight were told by
officers to keep clear for their own safety.
The Weekend Observer said the incident sent "shockwaves"
through the Pacific nation.
A village matai or chief, Vaili Mimita II, said officers
fired shots into the air when protesters tried to go near
During the clash Mr Mimita tried to wrestle a gun from one of
the officers and was told: "Back off if you want to live."
He did what the officer told him as he feared people from his
village may be killed, he said.
"The police were armed and some people from our village were
also armed," Mr Mimita said.
"It would've been an all-out war, so I moved back and yelled
at our village to retreat."
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi condemned
the protesters' actions.
"Government will not sit by idle while thugs run amok on the
streets," he told Savali News.
"Who do they think they are blocking public roads and holding
up motorists and tourists?"
He planned to charge MP Toesulusulu Cedric Schuster with
treason for his alleged involvement in the protest.