Keep the peace, villagers reminded
Matai of Matautu Falelatai who had been facing charges of deliberately damaging water pipes have been told by the Court to maintain peace within the village and that no one is above the law.
A District Court Judge, Alalatoa Rosella Viane-Papalii, made the comments this week when nine villagers consisting of senior matai and untitled men appeared in Court.
The prosecution has not finalised charges against the men and have asked for another two weeks to do so.
The villagers were initially charged for perpetrating intentional damage to water pipes that supply a fraction of the village as a result of a dispute with those who worship at a rival church group.
In granting the final adjournment, Judge Papalii told the defendants that the village council should take the lead in upholding conditions requiring them not to reoffend while on bail.
“You have to lead by example by keeping the peace,” she said.
“You maintain the peace and uphold the law. You are all equal under the law, no one is above the law when they enter the courtroom.”
The District Court Judge added that everyone in the village has rights and should be respected. She ordered the prosecution to finalise the charges within two weeks and be mindful that everyone has rights under the Constitution to have their matters dealt with promptly.
During the proceeding, prosecutor and the Attorney General Office’s lawyer, Ioata Tanielu, said the police are continuing their investigation into the matter and anticipate more people will be charged.
Judge Papalii asked the prosecution if the charges against the defendants are likely to be changed should an adjournment be allowed or if the main purpose of the move was, in fact, a delaying tactic.
In response, Mr. Tanielu said there is a possibility that the charges will change and additional defendants will be brought into the case.
A lawyer for the defence, Maureen Tuimalealiifano, did not oppose a further adjournment.
She submitted that the bail conditions for the defendants could be reviewed allowing them to be remanded at liberty while in the community.
Judge Viane-Papalii granted the request to vary the defendant’s bail terms on the conditions that the men will not reoffend and refrain from disturbing the peace within the village.
The men have been remanded at liberty without being required to regularly sign at the police post.
She adjourned the matter to 9 November when charges would be finalised.
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