Tu'ula relieved after Court overturns three year banishment

After he and his family were banished from the village of Saleapaga for three years, Tu'ula Kiliri Tuitui, is a relieved man on this Father's Day.

Tu'ula, the man who had unsuccessfully challenged Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi during the previous General Election, and his family are relieved that the decision against them has been reversed.

The Land and Titles Court in July ruled in favour of the descendants of Tu'ula dismissing the decision from the village Council to banish the family.  The Court accepted that the banishment of Tu'ula and his descendants was not in accordance with customs and traditions as well as requirements under the Village Fono Act 2017. 

In addition, the Court stated that the descendants of Tu'ula were not given the right to respond to allegations made by the Village Council when they ousted the family.

During an interview with the Samoa Observer, Tuula Kiliri said there are at least 200 descendants of the Tuula title, including people living overseas who were affected by the banishment. 

“I’m happy [with the decision] because we were banished for no reason,” said Tu'ula. 

“It has been more than three years since we were banished by the village and the reason for that decision is unknown. But the Court has ruled in our favour.” 

According to the Land and Titles Court decision, the decision from the village council to banish Tu'ula and their descendants is because of defying village customs and traditions. 

Sogimaletavai descendants are the respondents in the case. The respondent in the matter claimed that there are only two matai sa'o in the village council sitting as per customs and traditions; the title Sogimaletavai and Sagale. 

However, Sogimaletavai claimed that the Tu'ula descendants come under the Sogimaletavai branch and have breached village customs and tradition. 

The respondent claimed that village customs and traditions were breached by the Tu'ula descendants by breaking away to become independent matai and changing the village customs by now having three matai sa'o. 

 But the Court concluded that the Village Council did not give the descendants of Tu'ula the right to respond to the claims. 

The Village Council should have further investigated the claims and recognise a response from the banished family. 

Tuula Kiliri has been disqualified twice by the Supreme Court in the past from contesting against Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi for not rendering service to the village.  Electoral laws make it compulsory for any candidate to render service to the village for three years in order to be eligible to run in the election. 

Asked if he has plans to challenge the Prime Minister in the April 2021 General Election, Tu'ula was reluctant to talk. 

“I don’t want to say anything about this now," he responded. "Maybe at a later time."

Tu'ula is unlikely to be eligible to run from Lepa next year because he has not been able to render his service to the village council for the last three years they were banished from the Saleapaga. 

Utaulu Konelio of Lepa had recently confirmed that the constituency of Lepa has unanimously agreed to support Tuilaepa for what he said was likely to be his last General Election. 

He added that his nephew Tuula Kiliri is ineligible to contest even if he wishes to run because of the three years monotaga requirement that he does not meet. 

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