Court told that church minister should not be a party to the Fugalei land dispute


Looking towards the Fugalei area that is a growing commercial centre

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – FRIDAY 28 APRIL 2017:  The respondent to the Fugalei land dispute, Leapai Brown, has told the Court that Reverend Misipalauini Patau should never have been involved as a party to the case.

In giving evidence, Leapai said Reverend Misipalauni did not own the land involved in the dispute then.

Reverend Misipalauni is the 8th party to the case which also involves several business people around the Fugalei area.

The case in question was already dealt with by the Court in 1996, in favour of the Leapai family; however, the Attorney General’s Office reopened the case last year, on the understanding that the decision by the Court then was based on wrong information.

But in order for the AG to pursue the matter, he invited 8 families and businesses, who had bought part of the land in dispute as party to their claim, including Reverend Misipalauni.

According to Leapai, when the original case took place in 1994, none of the 8 parties owned any property at Fugalei.

“The case was between my uncle Leapai Alaiva’a (family Sa’o) and Theresa McCarthy,” said Leapai.

He continued to argue that the 8 parties involvement was “illegal” however, Court documents stated that the only court case on this matter was in 1996, between Leapai Alaiva’a, the Attorney General and Faamausili Leinafo, Director of Lands and Survey Department, now known as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Leapai then claimed that the “parties name were changed” but do not know who changed them.

Reverend Misipalauni’s lawyer, Leota Raymond Schuster pointed out to Leapai, that in the 1996 proceedings, the claim was brought by Leapai Alaiva’a against the AG and MNRE, and “nowhere does the name Theresa McCarthy appears.”

Leapai insisted and pointed out that Misipalauni only occupied the land in 1996 after the court case, and became owner after full payment in 2000.

Leota then read out part of his clients affidavit where it says“he entered into the purchase of a freehold land, Lot 311 Plan 4 at Fugalei sometime in 1993.”

“He was not interested in the property but because he was involved in the purchasing of lot 312 and 313 for the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, he was hounded by McCarthy  to purchase the land,” said Leota.

Leota further quoted from his clients’ affidavit, “sometimes in December 1 993, I started reclaiming the land with the knowledge of Ms. McCarthy, and by 1994 had already started building a house.”

On that note, Leota pointed out to Leapai, to own up to the truth, that he did not know the dealings of his uncle then.

Chief Justice Patu intervened wanting to know where Leapai had resided in 1993 to 1996, to which Leapai said America.

”So you were not concerned with the lands then, because it was your uncle Leapai Alaiva’a’s responsibility?” asked Patū.

“Yes” responded Leapai.

Patū also wanted to know who changed the name of the parties, to which Leapai said “I have no idea.”

Patu pointed out to Leapai that if the claim was by his uncle, then the reasonable inference to be drawn would be your uncle because it was his claim.

The case continues.