Tu’ula family wins banishment case

The Lands and Titles Court (L.T.C.) will allow the Sa Tu’ulā sa clan to return to the village of Saleapaga, after several members, including a potential political aspirant in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Lepa, were banished. 

The Tu’ula family was banished three years ago but sought the L.T.C.'s permission to return in February of this year. 

Some 10 members of the family were listed as complainants in the case, including Tu’ula Kilivi Lafi Tuitui, who had previously planned to run for office for Lepa. 

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, is currently the Member of Parliament for the Lepa constituency. Lepa has been represented in Parliament by Tuilaepa since 1980.

And on Friday the village mayor, Utaulu Konelio, said the village had already decided to support Tuilaepa for his next term in Parliament which he said he had told village leaders would be his last.  

The respondents opposed letting the Tu’ula Sa clan return to Saleapaga.

According to the written decision, the Tu’ula clan wrote to the L.T.C. on 20 February, 2020 complaining of their banishment from Saleapaga by matai from the Sogimaletavai and Sagale clans.

The complainants had asked the L.T.C. to lift the ban and allow the family back into Saleapaga, Lepa and said they had been banished despite not being told they had violated any village regulations. 

The Tuula family further argued they were not present at a meeting at which the decision was made to ban them from Saleapaga and the Sogimaletavai and Sagale clans did not have authority to banish Sa Tuula from Saleapaga as they govern themselves as members of the Tu’ula clan.

(In a previous legal battle, the Court decided in a 2006 decision that the ownership of the Tu’ulā title belonged to its heirs and Sagale and Sogimaletavai titles had no right over it.)

They believed the banishment was motivated by that 2006 decision where the Court acknowledged the Tu’ulā title as a chiefly title.

The respondents had argued that the Tu’ula family should never have claimed that the Tu’ulā title held the same status as the Sagale and Sogimaletavai titles.

The court ordered that the Sa Tu’ula be allowed to return to Saleapaga, Lepa.

In conclusion, the L.T.C. granted the request from the Tu’ula clan, and denied the request from Sogimaletavai and Sagale.

The Court ultimately ruled that the banishment of the Tu’ulā family was not done in accordance with the Village Fono Act 2017 or the Lands and Titles Act 1981.

The L.T.C. found due process for banishment was never followed and that the alleged village issues concerning the Tuula family were never investigated openly or properly by the village in accordance with due process.  

The Samoa Observer sought a comment from Tuula on the decision and whether he planned to run for the Lepa constituency in the 2021 election but he was ill and declined to comment. 

But on Friday the village mayor of Lepa, Utaulu Konelio said despite the L.T.C. ruling reversing his banishment, Tu’ula cannot run for political office.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Utaulu, who is Tu’ula's uncle, said their district – comprised of Aufaga, Lepa, Lealaalatele, Siupapa and Saleapaga – had unanimously decided to support Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s bid for office in the 2021 Election.

Utaulu lives in Nuu Fou, Siupapa, Lepa. “He (Tu’ula) cannot run. [Firstly], it’s already been decided and the village has decided that the person who chooses to violate this decision of the village will be fined. 

The fine is hefty – five cows and 100 pigs if someone impedes on this decision which the village has unanimously agreed upon,” he said. 

“Tu’ula Kilivi is a matai of this village. His family was banished from the village. My matai title Utaulu, it is a title from Siupapa. But in [...] Saleapaga, there is the matai title of Tuula…he was banished from Saleapaga…we don’t know why he was banished from the village.”

Matai of Saleapaga say that Tu’ula cannot run because he has not rendered monotaga to the village, Utaulu added. 

“The second reason he cannot run is that the matai of Saleapaga have said Tu’ula Kilivi has not rendered monotaga. So there are two things that prohibit Tuula from running for political office,” he said.

As for the Prime Minister and anyone else who wishes to run for political office from Lepa, the village has spoken. 

“There are many who want to run for political office from here,” said Utaulu. 

But he said the Prime Minister has already met with village leaders and informed them that this is his last bid as leader of the country for the next five years. 

“This is his last run for office. So for this district, it’s done. It has already been decided. Tui (Tuilaepa) has said after this term, he is done. So the villages in the district have met and it’s unanimous, as I said before – we are going to support him for the next five years,” said Utaulu. 

“After that, he is done. There are a lot of people who wish to run for Parliament from the villages in our district. All the villages in our district wish to have a Member of Parliament in office. It can’t just be Lepa, Lepa, Lepa.

“So we have already informed the people who wish to run to please have patience. We will give the toeaina (the old man) the next five years to complete what he is working on and afterwards those people will be free to run.” 

Lepa, he said, has a number of people in Government positions who are eyeing the seat in Parliament for their district. 

“But they [the candidates] have all been blocked. There are a lot of good candidates here with impressive credentials but the district and the village have blocked them from running. We will give this opportunity to the old man to finish his work,” Utaulu told the Observer.

Additional complainants on the case were: Tu’ula Ae Ulisese, Tu’ula Puletiuatoa Ioane Filipo, Tu’ula Suafa’i Sasulu, Tu’ula Puletiuatoa Ponesi Filipo, Lopa’u Tu’ula Taavili, Lolofietele Koroseta, Lopa’u Sia Tauasosi and Akeli Agalenuu Tulili.

Respondents include matai of Saleapaga, Lepa: Sogimaletavai Ualesi Sagapolutele, Sogimaletavai Togisala II, Sogimaletavai Neueli, Sogimaletavai Falo, Sogimaletavai Faiesea, Sagale Lauiliu, Sagale Aila’ula’u, Sagale Faafetai, Sagale Faaaliga and Falefata Kuki.

The L.T.C.’s nine-page decision was handed down on 24 July. It was signed by members of the L Luamanuvae Palesoo Asera (Vice President), Sala Pesamino (Director), and L.T.C. judges Leituala Fiu Mesepi Sialaoa, Feagaimaalii Malaeliua Su’a and Tuala Niko Palamo.


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