Judge questions order

District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Viane Papali’i yesterday questioned an interim order from the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) that resulted in contempt of Court charges against sixteen matai of Malie.

The charges against the matai, including Malietoa Fa’amausili Moli, are in relation to an interim order issued by the L.T.C. Registrar to stop the bestowal of the Malietoa title last year.

Lawyer Tauiliili Harry Schuster is representing the 15 matai while Matafeo George Latu is the lawyer for Malietoa. Iliganoa Atoa, of the Attorney General’s Office, is the prosecutor. 

During the discussion of preliminary issues of the matter yesterday, Judge Alalatoa questioned the interim order. She made reference to sections of a decision made by the L.T.C. for the selection and appointment of Papali’itele Fa’amausili Moli as the new holder of the Malietoa title.

A section of the decision read out in Court said the bestowal of the Malietoa title should take place in accordance to customs and traditions pursuant to the Land and Titles Act 1981. 

The Judge questioned if there was an order from the Deputy President or President (L.T.C.) for stay of execution of the order. 

“The first issue if there is no stay of execution is that order remains paramount and no order by a Court Registrar, even if it complies with the legality of the act, can supersede that order by the Court,” said Judge Alalatoa.

“If there is no stay of execution that interim order from which resulted in contempt of court charge should have never have been issued in the first place. Therefore these proceedings of contempt of Court is an abuse of process.  

“I know that I have the jurisdiction to stop proceedings where there has been abuse of process and it becomes quite glaring that this is one of those cases.” 

Judge Alalatoa advised the prosecutor and defense counsels that these are the issues she wanted them to address in their submissions.

She also raised concerns over a Court Registrar issuing an interim order that would subsequently supersede orders that has not been set aside properly by the Court. 

“Ms. Atoa, I have raised this issue so many times not just with this issue, there have been number of other cases like this,” she said. 

“Your office needs to look into this if what the Registrar is doing is right. If there is no stay (order) from the Court which has relevant jurisdiction to deal with matters of Titles and Land, then the Registrar cannot make another (interim order) to supersede what is there.

“It is so glaring…”

Judge Alalatoa pointed out that while there is authority that allows the President and Court Registrars to issue interim orders, there are steps to be followed.

“Under the legislation there is another step that needs to be taken by the person that issued the interim order because you cannot just issue it then go home and sleep. The other step is for a petition because the interim order is not eternal. 

“That is another question Ms. Atoa if a petition has been filed and if you could please address these issues.”

The District Court added that she would find out whether there was a stay of execution order issued by the Chief Justice, his Honour Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu.

“Whether one was granted by him if there is nothing then I think it becomes obvious what becomes thereafter.”  

Earlier on during Court proceedings, Matafeo sought an adjournment so he can obtain an order from L.T.C. President to rescind the interim order. 

He made the application as in his view, the interim order is invalid. The lawyer representing Malietoa asked for a six-month adjournment.

Tauiliili supported the application, pointing out that it has a bearing on the path his clients take. 

But the prosecutor Ms. Atoa responded that the interim order was made in accordance to the law pursuant to section 50 of the Land and Titles Court Act 1981. 

She said the order was not only signed by the Court Registrar it was also inked by two other Judges of the L.T.C. 

Judge Alalatoa adjourned the matter for prosecution to file submission on the 5 April, and for defense counsel to file response by the 26 April. 

The matter will then be called for hearing on the 8 May 2019. 

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