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Matai ignored earlier court order

By Jasmine Netzler-Iose APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Jan. 27, 2011) – In Samoa, nine matai (chiefs) from Solosolo-uta have been warned by the District Court.

Judge Vaepule Alo Vaemoa Vaai told them if they appear before his Court again, there would be no second chances.

The nine faced contempt of Court charges in relation to a ruling delivered by the Land and Titles Court in 2009.

They were convicted and discharged. The defendants were Lemafaituuga Tilo, Lemusuitau Ena Tavita, Misalefatu Pouniu Fiu, Nua Leaso, Nua Sulusi, Pulemagafa Kimi, Seuali’i Atoaga, Tamalau Leni and Ututa’aloga Paiau.

In Court on Monday, Judge Vaepule stressed to the defendants that Court decisions must be taken seriously.

The Court considered their first offender status and early guilty plea as factors in their favor.

But the judge pointed out that matai of their age should know better. They should be at the forefront of more peaceful solutions to village differences.

Judge Vaepule said it was not the Court’s responsibility to resolve differences within villages because such is the responsibility of village councils and matai.

"This is the first and last opportunity to be given to you," Judge Vaepule said. "If you appear again before this court in relation to the same matter, you will be imprisoned."

The charges stemmed from a longstanding dispute within Solosolo. It involves a former Speaker of Parliament, Leota Ituau Ale, who was fined last year for contempt of Court.

Leota and the nine matai were accused of defying a Land and Titles Court order to stop operating their sub-village.

Despite the order, Leota’s sub-village group carried out a Talomua, saofai and welcomed new pastors for the Methodist Church and an Assembly of God church in the village.

Twelve people were originally charged. A warrant of arrest was issued for Lemafa Levao, Savaiinaea Paulo and Taulapapa Satia.

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