Let mutual respect, dialogue and regard for rule of law be our guide
Land disputes are sensitive matters. And in Samoa where it is often said that land is one of two reasons a man would be willing to risk his life, such disputes must not be treated lightly especially where multiple families, lots of customary land and villages are involved.
The thought comes to mind after reading a story titled “Tensions grow over villages land dispute” published on the front page of the Sunday Samoan last week. The story in question highlights concerns by the Levi Saleimoa Mayor, Nu’uali’itia Siaunu’ua, who has called on the Police to maintain peace and security for members of the public who are connected to a simmering dispute concerning the boundaries of Afega, Tuana'i, Leauva'a and Saleimoa. The dispute is subject to a pending appeal before the Court.
But Nuuali’itia spoke out publically calling on everyone involved to allow the due process to take its natural course. He claims that two chiefs of Afega, Maulolo Tavita and Ututa'aloga Charlie Ulia, allegedly violated an interim Court order over the boundaries in question, which nearly erupted into a violent fight.
“It would have been a blood bath," Nuuali’itia said about the near confrontation. "All the youth [were] armed with machetes because the village was conducting works on the land and there were more than thirty people from our village and a similar number of people from Afega that were there.
“We had to calm the youth because it would have been a disaster, if things got out of hand. And it did not even help that when the Police arrived there were only two of them, they called for back up and only four came yet they were in the middle of a sensitive issue between villages.”
When the story was printed, repeated attempts to get a comment from Maulolo, Ututa’aloga and the Police were unsuccessful. But the matter is so serious the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Moliei Simi Vaai, has expressed serious concerns in a letter to the Commissioner of Police, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, requesting Police assistance.
In a letter dated 12 November 2020, Mrs. Vaai requested the Police to enforce the Court order, investigate the alleged breach and file the appropriate charges against the chiefs in question.
“I respectfully seek assistance from the Ministry to file charges and investigate chiefs of Afega including Maulolo Tavita and Ututaaloga Charlie for violating the interim order issued by the President [of the Lands Titles Court] on 9 November, 2020,” a translation of the letter reads. Mrs. Vaai noted Levi Saleimoa has already informed the Police about the sensitive nature of the matter and that lives of people are at stake.
“Hence the request for your immediate assistance to enforce the interim order of the Court to assure there is peace and harmony [between the villages]," the letter continues.
In a separate email response to questions from the Samoa Observer, Mrs. Vaai, assured that aside from the interim order, a reconciliation meeting has since been held. “They reached an agreement to comply with the interim order of the Court. The Police were involved to ensure peace and harmony is maintained between the villagers,” she said.
Well that’s good to know. Laws and rules are in place for a reason and they must be respected, especially when the Court has issued an interim order in relation to whatever matter. No one is above the law and the Government through the Police and the Ministry of Justice must ensure this is the case.
Regardless of how powerful some people might think of themselves, the law is the law and it must be applied consistently across the board. That means if they have broken the law, especially in violation of a Court order, they should be held accountable and placed where all law breakers go at Tanumalala.
It’s not just the idea a Court order was violated that is disturbing. Thinking back to the incident between the villages last month, with tensions rising, temperatures boiling, it could have easily developed into a confrontation we would all regret. We don’t want to imagine what could have happened had those young men with machetes got into a fight. It could have been a bloodbath indeed.
But then this is Samoa.
Today, we want to remind that in this country, our problems are not resolved through weapons, confrontation and fists. We live in a country where dialogue, mutual respect, care, love for one another and the respect for the rule law are the ways we resolve our differences.
In other words, let the Court do its job, we remind the Police to do theirs, and let everyone exercise caution, maintain peace and refrain from taking the law into their own hands. What do you think?
Have a peaceful Thursday Samoa, God bless!