AMERICAN SAMOAN JAILED FOR USING CHIEF’S TITLE

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, May 23) - A Ta'u, Manu'a
matai has been held in contempt of court for continuing to use the chiefly title
"Tauala" and has been sentenced to serve 60-days in jail starting at 4
p.m. yesterday.

Associate Justice Lyle Richmond read the ruling in open court
yesterday morning with a written decision released thereafter.

Besides Richmond, the decision was signed by associate judges
Mamea Sala Jr., Sagapolutele Malaeola and Tupuivao M. Vaifanua.

The Land and Titles Division of the High Court heard arguments
on May 15 and 16 based on a petition in March of this year against respondent
Peteru Luavasa Tauala to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of
court for violation of a judgment made and entered on March 20, 1990 awarding
the "Tauala" title to petitioner Tauala Ta'avasa F. Falesigago.

According to the judges, Peteru has failed to comply with the
1990 judgment by holding out himself as "Tauala" and cited certain
public particulars where it occurred and where the respondent was recognized and
called "Tauala."

The court cited incidents in March and November of last year and
again in April this year, including a meeting of the Ta'u Village Council.

Additionally, the court cited a December 2002 confrontation at
San Jose, California between Peteru and Tauala following a family funeral.
There, according to the court decision, "Peteru openly stated that the
Court's decision awarding the title to Tauala was wrong."

Peteru had denied using the Tauala title on ceremonial occasions
cited in the court ruling and attempted to excuse the references to him as the
"Tauala" titleholder by switching blame to others.

The court said Peteru shifts the fault in other ways as well by
blaming Tauala for not reconciling the still divisive factions of the Tauala
family and insists that he participates in ceremonial occasions as "Peteru",
the lesser matai.

The chiefly title "Tauala", according to the judges,
is one of the To'oto'o titles in the social structure of the Manu'a Islands and
is afforded high rank, prestige and importance in the affairs of those islands.

In Peteru's favor, the court said the respondent is an
intelligent and talented person who is a gifted orator and very knowledgeable of
Samoan custom by reputation.

However, the judge’s point out that Peteru "is also
clever and deceitful."

"He can enunciate in an apparently sincere manner desire to
restore peace and harmony in the Tauala family, and to vocally distance himself
from any efforts to remove Tauala from the title, but his statements ring
hollow," the judges note.

Additionally, the judges said, nothing in Peteru's
"demeanor while testifying during the ... contempt proceedings justifies
any other conclusion about his character."

"The Court takes judicial notice of Peteru's felony
convictions before the Court by a jury of his peers in 1994 for four counts of
embezzlement and four counts of stealing, occurring while he headed the American
Samoa Government's old age program," the decision said.

"The convictions further erode the basis for any confidence
in Peteru's character for truth and honesty," the judges added.

The judges said Peteru "has permitted, and still permits,
his egotistical ambitions to hold the 'Tauala' title, and its attendant fame and
fortune - recognition of importance and receipt of material rewards - to
override the reality of importance of the 1990 award of the title to Tauala
Ta'avasa F. Falesigago and the integrity of the Court's decision."

"Peteru's selfish motives and arrogant conduct during the
ensuing years have only yielded friction in the Tauala family, and have done
little or nothing to restore peace and harmony among the family's members,"
the judges continued.

"Peteru's use of the 'Tauala' title is clearly willful and
contemptuous," they said.

In finding Peteru in contempt, the court said Peteru will be
punished by imprisonment indefinitely until and unless he demonstrates to the
court's reasonable satisfaction that he no longer will unlawfully use, either
directly or indirectly, the "Tauala" title.

The terms of imprisonment are suspended if Peteru complies with
conditions set by the court.

Among the conditions is that he serve 60-days at the Territorial
Correctional Facility (TCF) beginning at 4 p.m. yesterday. And during the
detention period he shall not be released except for a bona fide medical
emergency or prior order of the court.

While in jail, Peteru is not to have any visitors (including
relatives) other than his attorney and territorial government officials
performing their official public safety duties.

In addition, he shall only be given food and other items
provided to inmates of TCF on a routine and official basis and not from any
other source.

Peteru shall totally refrain from any direct or indirect
unlawful use of the "Tauala" title and avoid placing himself in any
situation where others will refer to him as the Tauala title holder.

The court also ordered that certified copies of the contempt
judgment be served immediately to attorneys for Tauala and Peteru, the attorney
general, Commissioner of Public Safety and the TCF Warden.

Tauala was represented by attorney Asaua Fuimaono while Peteru's
legal counsel was Katopau T. Ainu'u.

May 26, 2003

Samoa News: www.samoanews.com 

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