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By Alan Ah Mu

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, July 26) - Seven men of Matautu, Falelatai, have been banned from the Samoan village over last Friday night's fire there, village sources said.

The decision to send them away was made at a meeting of ‘matai,’ (chiefs) the sources said, speaking on condition of not being named.

The fire destroyed the five-bedroom home of Land and Titles Court judge Misa Iuli Pita Anae.

Included among the men banished are several Congregational Christian Church of Samoa deacons, the village sources said.

So far, two men have been charged with arson in connection with the burning of Misa Anae's house in Matautu. They have been remanded in custody until the date of their first court appearance. This has yet to be set because Police investigations are still being completed.

The fire came amidst tension over a Land and Titles Court ruling in Misa Anae's favor in a dispute within the Misa family.

Commissioner of Police Papali'i Lorenese Neru said earlier that more suspects are being sought and Falelatai villagers are cooperating with Police in finding them.

Village sources said that the dispute was sparked by a row that arose during a ceremony. The sources said when the senior holder of the Misa title, Misa Esau, got there; a ‘matai’ of another title was sitting at his traditional spot.

Upset, Misa Esau left, the sources said.

But at some stage this ‘matai’ moved.

Misa Anae went over and occupied the now vacant post, the source said. Some say Misa Anae was urged to do so, others say he took it upon himself to do so.

Whatever the case, it flared into a dispute within the Misa family that saw Misa Anae eventually exiled from the village.

Misa Esau is said to be known as Matautu's "failautusi," and involved in decisions on whom is banned from the village.

Misa Anae then took the matter to the Land and Titles Court. The court ruled in his favor on the grounds that what he did was not an offence that warranted exile from the village based on well-established traditional grounds.

Amidst tension following this ruling, two of Misa Anae's relatives then went to the village and to his home there. They were armed with guns, village sources said.

Village leaders regarded that as a challenge to their authority, the sources said.

The sources said armed villagers then surrounded the house and gave the men inside an ultimatum to leave the village immediately. The two men left.

Later that night gasoline was poured on Misa Anae's house and it was set alight, one source said.

July 27, 2005

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