S.S.I.G. asks Court to amend claim in $5 million lawsuit

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i 15 January 2019, 12:00AM

The Samoa Solidarity International Group (S.S.I.G.) has asked the Supreme Court for leave to amend their statement of claim in their $5 million lawsuit against the Government.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, Attorney General Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff together, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Samoa Land Corporation have been named as defendants in the proceedings, which began last year. 

The move to amend was made known in the Supreme Court on Monday before the Chief Justice, Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu during civil mention. 

Lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, who is acting for the S.S.I.G., sought leave of the Court to enable her clients to amend their statement of claim against the defendants.   

However, the Chief Justice advised that it is useless to hear the leave application, when the Court is yet to receive an amended statement of claim from the plaintiffs.  

He then ordered that the S.S.I.G. file an amended statement and scheduled the matter to be heard January 28, 2019. 

The lawsuit by the S.S.I.G. is questioning the “legality and the constitutionality” of the Land Titles Registration Act 2008. The plaintiffs are asking the Court to void the Land Titles Registration Act 2008, any and all customary land leases be returned to their original and traditional state of ownership prior to 2008, all customary land owners be returned their rightful ownership status immediately, and others occupying the said land be legally removed.

The six causes of action outlined in the S.S.I.G. claim are that the Government is in violation of Article 102 of the Constitution by implementing, authorising, passing and enforcing Land Titles Registration Act 2008 — which they allege alienates the traditional landowners and removes their legal rights to their customary land.

Another cause of action highlighted in the claim is that Article 109 of the Constitution was allegedly violated by the defendants in passing a law that allows the alienation of customary land — without satisfying the requirement for a referendum vote — before submitting the said amendment of the Constitution to the Head of State’s signature. 

The third cause of action is that the Government passed the Land Titles Registration Act 2008 and enforced it for 10 years, thereby allegedly violating Article 2, which states that the Constitution shall be the supreme law of Samoa and also the Government violated Article 14 pertaining to rights relating to property. 

The fourth cause of action is freedom from discriminatory legislation where “the Government passed the Land Titles Registration Act 2008 and enforcing the arbitrary elimination of customary land ownership rights based on the availability of space on a registration document and by selecting owners based on their matai privilege as sa’o of the family is in violation of Article 15”.

The last cause of action is that defendants — in their roles from time of drafting and passing the Land Titles Registration Act 2008 to drafting and passing Land Titles Registration Act 2015 to permitting the Bill in 2017 before Parliament — have all conducted themselves with either recklessness or gross negligence to the Samoa Constitution. 

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i 15 January 2019, 12:00AM

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