Nanai Liutofaga Tokuma with members of the Tokuma family outside Court this morning.
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2018: A Melanesian indentured labourer by the name of Turore Tokuma was accused and imprisoned for murder in 1920. He was about to be executed when two men owned up to the crime.
As a result, Tokuma was pardoned and ‘gifted’ a swamp area of land at Sogi by the then government. That land (according to the Tokuma family) is where they have been living since and have been reclaiming over the years to what it is now.
That land is the center of the court case now before the Supreme court where the claimant is Turore Tokuma’s grandson, Nanai Liutofaga Tokuma on behalf of the family.
Most of the residents of Sogi have been relocated to Falelauniu on conditions of the Samoa Land Corporation (SLC), but the Tokuma family took claim of the land as theirs.
In Court today, Nanai Liutofaga Tokuma told the story of his grandfather Turore Tokuma claiming the link between the pardon and the land and the family’s current claim of ownership.
But counsel for the SLC, objected to the claim as hearsay.
“The counsel for the Respondent is objecting to the evidence you (Nanai) are giving, on the basis that the evidence given are hearsay, and are matters that happened before your birth,” said Leiataualesā.
His Honour also pointed out the Respondent’s concern, that there is no reason for assurance that the evidence given is reliable.
When asked how he knew this information, he said it was passed on to him by his (late) father.
Leiataualesā informed the Court that he wanted to hear submissions from the Respondent in respect of the objection and adjourned the matter to the 8th March 2018.
He is aware of the important matters raised by the Plaintiff against the Respondent and has accepted a request from the Plaintiff’s lawyer, Pa’u Tafaogaolupe Mulitalo for time to present evidence.
He also made an order to both parties in the matter to serve documents not only to the Court but parties to the case by Wednesday next week, before the matter is recalled on Thursday.
Outside Court Pa’u explained the challenge his side is facing especially on obtaining information or records dating back to the colonial times.
“The issue is admissibility and reliability, and the Court wants profound evidence to prove there was a murder or any criminal records in relation to this incident rather than Nanai telling a story passed on by his parents,” said Pa’u.
He was happy that the Court has given an opportunity to submit evidence on Tokuma’s verbal evidence in Court today.
“On the reliability of the evidence, we have to look and obtain evidence from police, a real challenge given the length of time,” said Pa’u.
He said the Judge’s ruling next week will be on the reliability of the evidence given this morning, otherwise the hearing will continue on the original claim of land ownership.
“The premise of the case is that whether the land was part of compensation and the Court wants strong evidence,” said Pa’u.
He said the link between the crime to which Nanai alluded to in his evidence and the land ownership, is that the land was gifted as compensation for the wrongful imprisonment of Turore Tokuma.
He also pointed out the authority held by then Commissioner of the Crown Estate or Public Trustee Mr. Patrick under the Samoa Act 1921 (269), to grant lands to someone.
“This is a complex case, not a straight forward one,” said Pa’u.