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Dedication of meeting house delayed by court proceeding

Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Sativa Perese, has reserved his decision on a disputed parcel of land in Alamutu, Levi, Saleimoa currently leased by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [L.D.S.].

The land is owned by Sapa’u Lilomaiava Lolesio, whose attorney Leuluaialii Tasi Malifa made an application to the Court for an interim injunction placed on access to the land to be revoked.

The Court heard that a notice, seeking the revocation of a decision pertaining to an interim injunction, was filed by Leulua’iali’i sometime last year though Chief Justice Satiu noted that it is undated. An amended notice seeking the revocation was later filed with the Court on 10 January this year.

The court proceedings has led to the L.D.S. deferring a house-dedication ceremony [umusaga] for a new meeting house which was built on the land in Alamutu, with the event originally scheduled for Saturday, July 11. 

The L.D.S. are represented in the proceedings by attorneys Salma Hazelman and Ellenlina Moala. 

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment [M.N.R.E.] are also co-plaintiffs in the application and were represented by attorneys Fuimaono Sefo Ainuu and Christina Te’o from the Attorney General’s Office.

The Chief Justice asked Leulua’iali’i if his clients were getting back their land and what was the issue with the umusaga.

“So again, what is the issue with the umusaga?” The Chief Justice asked.

In response, Leulua’iali’i said that with the umusaga, the plaintiffs “would be allowed to go onto the land and do as they please” as it is the ultimate goal and “final aspect of the whole thing.”

And although his clients will get their land back, Leulua’iali’i said they were of the view that the umusaga will be used to validate the lease which currently has an interim injunction placed on it.

Leulua’iali’i further submitted that the L.D.S. officials asked for the gates to be opened so they could go in and clean the land, but the church did not inform the family that they were preparing for an umusaga.

“Your Honour, when they asked us to open the gates, we accepted it because they wanted to clean the land and do everything and this is what we are saying,” he reiterated. 

“If they had asked us the same thing, that in the process of cleaning and making it look better, and that the ultimate aim was for the umusaga. Would they have done that?”

The Chief Justice then asked Leulua’iali’i why the umusaga – if it is a real issue for his clients – was not mentioned in the initial notice seeking revocation of the 2019 interim injunction and the amended revocation filed in 2020.

In response, Leulua’iali’i said: “Your Honour, we didn’t know there was going to be an umusaga…we never anticipated it.”

The issue was only mentioned to him early last week, he added.

The Chief Justice, after hearing submissions from all the parties last Thursday, told the counsels that he will reserve his decision and they will be contacted by his office on Wednesday, July 15.

The Court heard that the house-dedication ceremony was moved to July this year from early 2020, and was tentatively scheduled to be done prior to the Government’s declaration of the state of emergency [S.O.E.] in late March. 

But the going into effect of the S.O.E. put the usumaga on halt with the landowners putting a padlock on the gate into the land in dispute early this month. The land was leased from the Liomaiava family in 2012 with the L.D.S. beginning construction of the meetinghouse in 2018.

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