Court of Appeal redirects the Gatoaitele title dispute to Land and Titles Court
The respondent Savea Sano Malifa
By Rula Su’a – Vaai
APIA, SAMOA –MONDAY 16 APRIL 2018 : The Court of Appeal has quashed declarations made in the Supreme Court of Samoa, in relation to a paramount chiefly title, Gatoaitele, which was bestowed to the owner of the Samoa Observer Newspaper, Savea Sano Malifa (respondent) on the 21st June 2014.
The subject of the appeal is wether the elaborate procedures and time limits for objections as stipulated under the Lands and Titles Act part 4 and 5, can still be lodged later under the general provisions of ss 38, 42, 43 of the Act.
The respondent in the matter, Savea Sano Malifa argued through his lawyer, Aumua Ming Leung Wai, that the 3 months time limit imposed under Section 16 of the Lands and Titles Act has long since expired and that the petitions were objections to his original title application.
The matter was first brought to the attention of the Supreme Court after the bestowment of the chiefly title Gatoaitele was confirmed by entry in the register of the Lands and Titles Court. After the title was registered the notice was published as per norm for any challenges from any parties against the holder of the matai title within a 3 months period.
The Registrar of the Lands and Titles Court at the time received no objections within the publishing time period, but decided that the title had not been bestowed accordingly with customs and traditions. The respondent then applied to the Supreme Court for a judicial review on the Registrar’s decision, which was resolved through mediation.
According to court documents, 3 petitions against the Gatoaitele bestowment were received by the court at a later date. The respondent then argued that the Registrar should not have accepted the late petitions and that the Supreme Court should declare a declaration to cancel the late petitions filed before the Lands and Titles Court. The Registrar then sought advise from the Attorney General.
The Attorney General, as the first appellant moved to quash the application from the respondent, by saying the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over matters that pertain to the Lands and Titles Court. It stated Section 34 of the Land and Titles Court Act where “the court shall have exclusive jurisdiction in all matters relating to Samoan names and titles and to make orders or declarations in respect of Samoan names and titles as may be necessary to preserve.”
In delivering the ruling, President of the Court of Appeal, Honourable Justice Fisher said “by virtue of s34 of the Lands and Titles Act 1981, this dispute lies within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Land and Titles Act 1981, neither the Samoa Supreme Court nor the Court of Appeal is permitted to make a declaration as to the right to institute proceedings in the Lands and Titles Court.”
The Court of Appeal ruled the appeal was allowed. The declarations made in the Supreme Court are quashed. The respondent must pay the second appellant the sum of $5,000.