Court strikes out prohibition motion

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia ,

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IN MARCH: High Chiefs Tuia Paepae Letoa, Maiava Visekota Peteru, Anapu Aialii, and Afemata of Safata during the petition presented to parliament last year.

IN MARCH: High Chiefs Tuia Paepae Letoa, Maiava Visekota Peteru, Anapu Aialii, and Afemata of Safata during the petition presented to parliament last year.

The Supreme Court has struck out a motion seeking to stop the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C) from hearing a petition to determine the traditional boundaries of the district of Safata. 

The ruling was delivered by Justice Lesatele Rapi Va’ai last month. 

The statement of claim and notice of prohibition was brought by paramount chief of Mulivai Safata, Leota Suatele Manusegi and all matai of Fusi Safata, Fausaga and Tafitoala Safata. 

Leota and several matai filed a motion for prohibition in the Supreme Court against the President, the Registrar of the Land and Titles Court and others of Vaiee, Saanapu and Sataoa including Tuia Paepae Letoa.

He sought orders to prohibit the L.T.C. President from proceeding with the hearing of the petition and direct all the accused to transfer the petition to the Supreme Court. 

Leota also wanted to set aside the summons issued to the plaintiffs. 

In the statement of claim, Leota and others argued that the petition is a legal challenge to the validity of the amendment. 

However they believe the Land and Titles Court does not have the jurisdiction to make any determination of an Act of Parliament such as the Electoral Amendment Act 2015. 

“Such jurisdiction is confined to the Supreme Court,” argued the paramount chief of Mulivai, Safata. 

The plaintiffs also claimed that the division of the Safata Electoral constituency was caused by the 2015 Amendment of which they had no involvement. 

As a consequence of the filing of the petition by Tuia and other matai, the issue of summons for the plaintiffs and others to attend the Land and Titles Court has caused “unnecessary pressure on the plaintiffs, the district and their families. 

“It has also caused disharmony and possible violence within the district. They have also suffered damages and incurred unnecessary costs.”

But the first and second respondents in the case; L.T.C. President and Registrar filed a strike out motion. 

The grounds are based on the notice of motion and statement of claim are “Frivolous and vexatious, abuse of process and have no prospect of success. 

“It is contended that the Land and Titles Court has jurisdiction to entertain the petition which is concerned with the traditional boundaries of Safata district. The first respondent’s decision to allow the filing of the petition was not ultra vires as the Land and Titles Court has jurisdiction concerning claims and disputes relating to customary land.”

The L.T.C. President also sought to strike out the plaintiffs claim for damages as they have not particularized their losses and suffered. 

Similarly the Registrar of L.T.C. also filed a motion to strike out the claims from Leota and others. 

The Registrar maintained that the Land and Titles Court is the correct forum for the declaration of traditional boundaries of Safata district and the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to prevent eh hearing of the petition. 

“One of the main objectives and purpose of the establishment of the Land and Titles Court is to determine petitions relating to traditional boundaries, traditional malae or customs and usage of Samoa.”

In his ruling Justice Lesatele said the principles applicable to an application to strike out a statement of claim and a notice of motion are not disputed. 

He said the jurisdiction is to be sparingly exercised. 

Justice Lesatele made reference to the establishment of the Land and Titles Court in pursuant to article 103 of the Constitution. 

“…has exclusive jurisdiction in all matters relating to Samoan names and titles and in all claims and disputes between Samoans relating to customary land and the right of succession to property held in accordance with the customs and usages of the Samoan race (Section 34 Land and Titles Act 1981),” he pointed out. 

“It is common ground that the petition was filed by the third respondents subsequent to the enactment of the Electoral Amendment Act 2015 which divided the electoral constituency of Safata in two. It alleges that the amendment Act has ignored or infringed the existing customs and traditions of the district of Safata. The petition prays the Land and Titles Court to divide the district in accordance with its traditional and customary boundaries.”

Justice Lesatele pointed out whether Safata district is capable of being divided into two by custom and tradition is a question for the L.T.C. to entertain. 

“If it can be divided it is for that Court to determine the customary boundaries. Whether it is an academic exercise and a waste of Court time is also for that Court to decide. 

“If the third respondents succeed in their petition and Safata district is divided by the Land and Titles Court in a way different from the division under the Electoral Amendment Act, the third respondents may very well use the court ruling to persuade the law makers to reconsider the electoral division. 

“But the third respondent’s petition, contrary to the plaintiff’s claim, is not a challenge to legality or validity of the Electoral Amendment Act 2015.”

Furthermore, Lesatele admits it is true the plaintiffs cited as respondents in the petition had not input into the amendment but the nature and purpose of the petition would require the cultural leaders of all villages in the district to be notified and be parties to the petition seeking the cultural division of Safata. 

“A petition which the plaintiffs alleged in their statement of claim could ignite violence within the district. In fact representatives of other villages have filed responses to the petition.”

The plaintiffs were also ordered to pay cost of $800 for each of the first and third respondents. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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