Vailoa Palauli petitions to stop land sale

In its fight to stop the sale of one of Samoa’s largest and most ancient structure, the Alii ma Faipule of Vailoa Palauli has created a petition to stop the transaction of the more than 1000 acres of land surrounding it. 

Behind the petition is Member of Parliament for Palauli Sasae, Tuifa’asisina Misa Lisati Aiolupotea who confirmed the petition is to help the Ali’I ma Faipule of the Vailoa Palauli. 

Over the last 24 hours some 500 people signed up on the online petition that was created three days ago. 

Tuifa’asisina told the Samoa Observer that the petition has gathered a lot of support from Samoans living overseas. 

The 1150 acres of land in the district is home to the oldest historical sites in the Pacific called Pulemelei mounds was up on the market last month by owner O.F. Nelson Properties Limited. 

Requests for expressions of interest in the property opened on 1 March 2020 and will close on 1 June 2020. 

One of the shareholders of the 1150 acres of land is former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi. 

In response to queries about the sale of the land, Tui Atua said he has objected to the sale transaction but because there are other shareholders the decision to sell, any decisions would be based on a vote by the majority. 

He made it clear that he does not agree with selling the land because of his strong believe in heritage and Samoan culture.

"I cannot decide for all" he said.

Tui Atua added that if he had it his way he will preserve the land that he had invested in with the support of a friend to fund archaeologists study into the ancient site.  

The land has been contested and fought over in a series of court cases between the current landowner Nelson Properties Limited and the people of Vailoa, Palauli village over the years.

The village council had lost the legal battle against the land that has multiple shareholders in 2008. 

However, the petition from the Alii ma Faipule of Vailoa Palauli claims that the land “are our heritage and identity, the lands of our ancestors”. 

“We seek help from our people, here and aboard, to use this platform to hear our voices and make our concerns valid,” a statement on the petition reads. 

“To make the lives of our children and their children valid, to make the lives of our ancestors valid, to make the pursuit of our people who had fought and failed still valid. 

“These lands are our faasinomaga, they are part of who we are.”

Furthermore, it states the the people of Vailoa Palauli are coming together to contest the sale of the property and demand its return to the village of Vailoa. 

“Make your stance with the people of Vailoa Palauli in pursuit to stop the sale of their lands and for the Nelson Properties Limited to return these lands to the people of Vailoa, Palauli," the petition said.

A Court of Appeal decision into the competing claims to an area of land at Vailoa Palauli in 2008 ruled in favour of the Nelson company shareholders. 

The claim from the village in the proceedings is that  the land is customary land held and protected by them and their forebears under their village authority and matai authority. 

They claim that the land was never lawfully alienated so as to become freehold land and therefore the respondent has no valid title or right to ownership. 

They rely on the fact that under the Deeds System of land registration adopted by (now) the Land Registration Act 1992/1993

The village plead in the alternative that there was no proper consideration paid for the land and that the taking was tainted by fraud, mistake or illegality; and in the further alternative that at most only 563 acres confirmed by decision of the German Imperial Court is claimable by the respondent. 

The Court of Appeal’s conclusion entails a determination that the land in parcel 9 was duly secured by the respondent which obtained a good title, subject to the defence of limitation which has yet to be tried.

“In the case of Parcel 12 and 13, there is no evidence that Mr Gray did not possess valid title which he then passed on to the respondent,” the Court ruled. 

“Again it has secured good title, subject to the limitation defence.

“In the case of Parcel 1, we can find no relevant evidence in the record before us. Nor was it dealt with specifically in the judgment of the learned Chief Justice. That topic is referred back to the Supreme Court for determination."

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