Attorney General applies to remove Ministry

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 14 November 2018, 12:00AM

The Attorney General’s Office has filed a motion to strike out a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the Samoa Solidarity International Group Global (S.S.I.G.G.).

The Group is asking the Supreme Court to rule on the legality and the constitutionality of the Land Titles Registration Act 2008 and is seeking $5 million tala in damages from the Government. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi has been named the first defendant in the Court proceedings along with Attorney General, former Attorney General Aumua Ming Leung Wai, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) and the Samoa Land Corporation.  

The civil mention went before Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa in the Supreme Court yesterday, with the Attorney General’s Office informing the Court that it wanted to file a motion to remove the M.N.R.E. from the proceedings. 

But counsel Unasa Iuni Sapolu, who is representing the S.S.I.G.G. in the matter, objected and asked for an adjournment to enable them to look at the particulars of the motion.

“We have filed our opposition to the motion to strike, we received a request from the defendants yesterday, and I’m seeking adjournment so we can reply to the substantial list of particulars,” said the counsel. 

Justice Tuatagaloa agreed and adjourned the hearing to December 10, when all the parties will return to the Court to set a date for the motion to be heard.  

To argue their case, the Group claims the Government is in violation of Article 102 of the Constitution by implementing, authorising, passing and enforcing the 2008 Act—which alienates traditional landowners of their legal rights to their customary land.

They are also arguing that Article 109 of the Constitution was violated by the defendants by passing a law that allows the alienation of customary land, without satisfying the requirement for a referendum vote before submitting the said amendment of the Constitution for the Head of State’s signature.

They are also arguing that with the Government’s passage of the 2008 Act and its enforcement, it (Government) has for 10 years violated Article 2 of the Constitution, which states the Constitution shall be the supreme law of Samoa and also that the Government violated Article 14 relating property rights.

Also by passing the 2008 Act, the Government is in violation of Article 15 as it enforced the arbitrary elimination of customary land ownership rights, based on the availability of space on a registration document and by selecting owners based on their matai privilege as Sa’o of the family. 

Lastly, the Group is arguing that by drafting and passing the 2008 Act as well as the L.T.R.A. 2015 to permitting the Bill in 2017 before Parliament, have all conducted themselves with either recklessness or gross negligence to the Samoa Constitution. 

The S.S.I.G. is asking the following declaratory orders from the the Court: The Land Titles Registration Act 2008 is declared void; all customary land leases of customary land are returned to their original and traditional state of ownership prior to 2008; all customary land owners are returned their rightful ownership status immediately; and all others occupying said land illegally are removed.

On the whole the plaintiffs are seeking the Court’s relief for an order of Declaration Judgment Act 1988, determining the construction or validity of the L.T.R.A. 2008 and the L.T.R.A. 2015 as being null, void and illegal.

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 14 November 2018, 12:00AM

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