Court dismisses lawsuit against Elders of Church

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia 20 May 2016, 12:00AM

The Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit against members of the Elders Committee of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.). 

The decision delivered yesterday by the Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu, was welcomed by the Elders and members of the church who packed the courtroom at Mulinu’u.

Delivered in the middle of the church’s annual conference at Malua, the meeting was suspended yesterday to allow the Elders and senior members of the Church to be in Court.

The decision follows a lawsuit against the Committee brought by Reverend Kerita Reupena over a dispute in the running of the church in Ipswich, Queensland Australia. 

Rev. Reupena filed the lawsuit after the Committee had stripped him of senior positions in the church including that of being the Director of the Queensland District.

The Minister took legal action against C.C.C.S. Chairman Rev. Elder Tavita Roma, C.C.C.S. Deputy Chairman, Rev. Elder Tautiaga Senara, Chairman of the Elders Committee, Rev. Elder Kerisiano Soti and Rev. Elder Peleti Toailoa. 

The Court issued an interim injunction last year to stop the Elders Committee from appointing someone else to the positions held by Rev. Reupena. 

In his ruling yesterday, Chief Justice Patu said all the claims by the plaintiff are dismissed. 

“The interim injunction that was granted against the first respondents defendants on 15th May 2015 is also dismissed,” he said. 

“Counsel to file memorandum as to costs in 14 days if agreement cannot be reached.”

His Honour Patu said his written judgment will be made available by the 31st of May 2016, adding that he was unable to deliver his decision in the matter sooner because of other work commitments.

Lawyer Semi Leung Wai and Leota Tima Leavai represented the Elders Committee. 

Rev. Reupena, who was not present yesterday, was represented by Leuluaiali’i Olinda Woodroffe during the hearing. Yesterday, lawyers Iopu Tanielu and Unasa Iuni Sapolu appeared on his behalf. 

Happy with the outcome of the lawsuit, Mr. Leung Wai said said the decision has reconfirmed that the church’s procedures and policies are legally binding.

The Courtroom was so packed that even when more chairs were brought in many more church members were asked to wait outside because there was nowhere to sit. 

The general assembly at Malua was suspended for the afternoon while the majority of the church members made their way to Mulinu’u to support the Elders Committee. 

C.C.C.S. Chairman, Rev. Elder Roma, acknowledged God for his help.

He then thanked the church for their patience and support as well as the lawyers for their preparations and work. 

Rev. Elder Senara was equally thankful. 

“I’m thankful that we have received a judgment that gives us relief and some peace of mind,” he said. 

“But we cannot forget the other side (Rev. Reupena) as well because they are also part of the church, they are not strangers. I pray that the decision will help us drive the church forward towards better things.”

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia 20 May 2016, 12:00AM

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