Land and Titles Court president opted not to resign – says M.J.C.A. Acting C.E.O.
The President of the Land and Titles Court, Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati, has opted not to resign from office.
This is according to the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration Acting C.E.O., Aumua Ronnie Fereti, who referred to a letter written by Fepulea'i which was addressed to the Judicial Service Commission (J.S.C.) .
“That was the contents of his (Fepulea'i) letter to the Judicial Service Commission (J.S.C.) last week Tuesday,” Aumua said in an interview at his office.
Last week, former Chief Justice His Honour Patu Tiava'asu'e Falefatu Sapolu, who was then J.S.C. chairman, said Fepulea’i had resigned and his decision had been accepted by the J.S.C.
However, Aumua said Fepulea’i changed his mind and it is now up to the J.S.C.
“On Monday the 15th (April, 2019) the Appellate court rendered their decision and on Tuesday, the Chief Justice met Fepulea’i. At the time he (Fepulea’i) was stepping down and he was supposed to formalise that into a letter.
"And as of Tuesday last week, the President wrote to the former Chief Justice on his last day saying he changed his mind and will not resign from office. However, the final decision lies with the J.S.C.,” he said.
Fepulea’i has been on special leave since March last year and continued to receive his full benefits including a $131,250 per annum salary.
But the Acting C.E.O. confirmed that Cabinet had issued a F.K. directive for Fepulea’i's salary and official vehicle to be seized before the Appellate Court went into session.
“Directive from Cabinet instructs to seize the salary and the vehicle (allocated for Fepulea’i) has also been turned back into the Ministry,” said Aumua.
To date, the Samoa Observer has been unsuccessful in its efforts to get direct comments from Fepulea’i since his conviction.
During the hearing of the Appellate Court recently, Fepulea’i's lawyer Aumua Ming Leung Wai submitted that the President intended to step down if the matter progressed and he is convicted of the offence.
“The respondent provided in an affidavit, specifically stated that if he is convicted of offending, he will step down as President of the Land and Titles Court and that is what he intends to do.
“He is not deciding to leave that decision to the Judiciary Commission, he has decided that he will step down (if Court of Appeal convicts him)," Aumua submitted.
The Court heard that Fepulea’i had written to the Chief Justice to advise that he would step down from his position pending a decision on the matter, rather than wait to be suspended.