Niulevaea warns against abuse of power in village
A senior matai of Vailu'utai, Niulevaea Siala Leao, has cautioned against the “misuse of authority” in the village.
Niulevaea spoke up following an incident at Vailu'u-tai where a guesthouse was “pulled to pieces” by men from the village as per the instructions of the Village Council.
Village Mayor of Vailu’utai, Leaitua Taua Toeoa’ana, said the Village Council’s instructions for the demolition of the guesthouse was an attempt to keep the peace.
“We had appealed to Lio Mugi’s family to hold off on building their house until the village sees a Court order because two other families are disputing the said project.
"Lio Mugi’s family was in a dispute with two other families and our efforts were to keep the peace. Until the three families come to a conclusion or the court gives an order, only then we will allow the project to proceed.”
However, Niulevaea said this was the wrong decision. They shouldn’t have intervened no matter what.
“During our meeting, I appealed not to take down the house, considering that we did not understand the status of the court case over the land in question. And my request fell on deaf ears. I was there when they ordered to dismantle the house and the men did as they were told.
“Yesterday (Friday) the court ruled the land in question has gone through all the legal proceedings and the Lio Mugi family own the parcel.
“This was the main reason why I was against the decision from the beginning, we were not aware of the court proceedings as we are not part of it. And now the village will suffer the consequences as the family will most likely sue the Village Council for damage."
The decision by the Court was confirmed in a letter dated May 6, 2019 to the Vailu’utai Village Council from the Court Registrar Togatalima Papali’i. It outlined the Court's ruling on the specific land parcel and stated that Lio Mugi’s family is entitled to that land and the other families were ordered to vacate the land.
“This ruling has been in place since February 20, 2015 and it has gone through the Court and the Appellate Court,” stated the letter.
Mugi told the Samoa Observer she has forgiven the Village Council, but their family should be compensated.
“We will try and move on but the village must pay for the costs of my house that was dismantled and our family car that was set on fire, and that is all we are asking for,” she said.
High Chief Niulevaea also took the opportunity to reminded Village Councils of its responsibilities in the village.
“We are peacekeepers of the village, yet what happened in Vailu’utai was the total opposite and it makes me sad. The main reason you are bestowed a chiefly title in your family so you can lead with compassion, love, respect and above all you are entrusted to keep the peace in the family, church and the village,” he said.
He said he hoped the incident will be a lesson for everyone.
"It is an embarrassment what occurred, this is a Christian nation yet when ungodly things happen, it brings shame not only on our country but also in the village," he said.