Samoa Court Hears Case About Ownership Of Prime Land In Apia, Sogi, Matautu

Land in question already heavily developed by government, churches

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Nov. 7, 2016) – The court hearing to determine the rightful owners of more than 200 acres of prime land in Apia, Sogi and Matautu started today before Justice Vui Clarence Nelson.

The parties to the case include Vavae Fuimaono and others versus the Public Trustee and heirs of Teriki.

The lands in question have been well developed not only by the Government, but various church denominations and business operators.

Father Fereti Tautunu of the Catholic Church gave evidence on behalf of the church that bought and developed part of the land in question.

When asked of what he knows about the transaction with which the land was bought, Father Fereti said “only what is in the church files.”

“The transaction between the church and the land owners took place long before I was born,” he told the court.

He explained that the church bought several acres of land, not only at Matautu, but in Apia for the purpose of developing churches.

Asked who the church bought the lands from, Father Fereti said church records only cited the Lands and Survey Office.

He was also asked if he knew that the lands or estate in question was under the care of the Public Trustee, to which Father Fereti said no.

The Court noted that several names are in the court documents as owners of various acres of land in question.

Background of the case  

The matter was first brought to Court in 2005 by Gafatasi Mika Fuimaono, the grandson of Teriki senior, who was from Cook Islands and the original owner of the estate.

Teriki senior married a woman from Falefa and for many years resided with his wife and young family at Falefa.

The court heard that since the passing of both Teriki senior and his wife, their children who were still residing at Falefa did little to hold on to their father’s estate, until Gafatasi and other grandchildren decided to act.

However, the difficulty for Gafatasi and his siblings at the time of their research was not knowing which Government office to approach for information.

According to information tabled before the court today, the descendants of Teriki paid many visits to the Lands and Survey office, currently known as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE).

The descendants of Teriki Fuimaono continued to fight for what they believe was theirs by right and heritage.

Eleven years after, the matter was first heard in Court in 2005. It was again back in court in November 2014 that decided for the matter to be referred to mediation.

Mediation failed and the matter is back in Court for the two weeks hearing that started this morning.

The parties to the hearing are represented by Semi Leung Wai acting for the Public Trustee, two overseas counsels Simon James and Jane Anabel for the heirs of Teriki and Ruby Drake representing Vavae Fuimaono and others.

The case continues.

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