Church Minister cries foul, alleges ‘unfair dismissal’

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia 12 May 2016, 12:00AM

A Minister of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa has sought legal advice over what he claims as “unfair dismissal” from the church he has served for 18 years. 

Reverend Ali’imau Toiaivao and his wife Salome Toiaivao were serving at the Samamea, Fagaloa parish when they were told that their covenant with the church had been severed, without their knowledge. 

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Rev. Toiaivao said they were on their six months break, a usual practice for the church Ministers, when they were told of their dismissal. 

He then wrote to the Church’s Elders committee for an explanation although he suspects that the decision might have something to do with an altercation on a flight which saw him and his wife booted from the aircraft.

Today, Rev. Toiaivao has not heard from the Elders Committee. 

And that’s why he has decided to seek legal advice from the Summit Lawyers Law firm.

 “I think what I really wanted is for our voices to be heard,” said Rev. Toiaivao.

“We feel as if decisions are made on that level without even consulting those involved in this case to share our side of things.  

“One must remember that with these things, it involves our families as well. It’s not something that you just walk in and say that’s it you are done and leave.”

Rev. Toiaivao added since the situation came about, he has been trying to find answers from the Church. He has even missed his wife’s operation in New Zealand because of his search for answers.

When the congregation found out, four of the six families that make up the congregation signed a letter urging the church for the Pastors to be reinstated.

A letter from lawyer, Su’a Alex Su’a, of Summit Lawyers has also been given to the Elders Committee.

In the letter, Sua highlights several articles in the Church’s constitution and the Samoa’s Constitution that have been allegedly violated in the sacking of the pastors. 

For example, Su’a points out that article 9 of the Constitution of Samoa has been violated by the Committee by not giving Rev. Toiaivao the right to respond to accusations made against him. 

As for the church constitution, Su’a said the decision to annul the covenant of the Minister and his church was made without consulting and calling a meeting with the church. 

Asked what the accusations were, Rev. Toiaivao said there was an incident on the plane when they boarded to leave for New Zealand on their break. 

He explained they couldn’t find a space to put their luggage in the cabin and had asked another passenger if he could remove his bags from their half of the cabin. 

“He didn’t like it and swore at my wife,” said Rev. Toiaivao. 

“Maybe I was too quick to act and collared his shirt because of what he had said but that was it. 

“The crew came up to us and made their conclusion that I started it when I collared him but they don’t know why I did that and asked us to leave the aircraft. 

“So we did and somehow this incident got around and someone might have relayed it to the Elders committee saying that I had done wrong.”

Rev. Toiaivao said he was later instructed by one of the Elders that they needed to return to Samoa to annul their covenant with the church because of the incident on the plane. 

“I did not do anything wrong and this is why I’m saying we want our voices to be heard,” he said. “What we are asking for is for the Committee to investigate and get all the sides to this matter before they make a decision.” 

Rev. Toiaivao said when he returned to Samoa, the covenant with Samamea church had already been annulled and were instructed to leave the church. 

He added he wanted to resolve the matter and have his side of the story heard by the elders committee. It was not possible to get a comment from the Elders Committee. 

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia 12 May 2016, 12:00AM

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