Malietoa Title Bestowal: Court Judge questions merits of interim orders issued

Rula Vaai

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PHOTO: Fa’amausili Papali’i Malietoa being bestowed the Malietoa title in Malie in August 2018. Photo Talamua Media


By Rula Su’a – Vaai


APIA SAMOA – THURSDAY 9 MAY 2019: District Court Judge Rosella Viane Papali’i is questioning the merits of two interim orders by the Acting President of the Lands and Titles Court, Patū Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu, and the Deputy Registrar of the Lands and Titles Court to stop the bestowal of the paramount chiefly title Malietoa on Fa’amausili Papali’i Malietoa in 2018.

Sixteen matais of Malie village are facing contempt of court charges for failing to obey the orders. Judge Papali’i says the matter before the Court is whether the accused be held in contempt of court for an interim order that is questionable.

Judge Papali’i pointed out that there was an interim order issued by the former Chief Justice Patū Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu who was the Acting President of Lands and Titles that said “the paramount honours – Pāpā of the Gatoa’itele should not be conferred at the bestowal of the Malietoa title.”

Judge Papali’i also stated there was another interim order issued by the Deputy Registrar on 16 August 2018 to stop the bestowment because the ceremony was not conducted in accordance with Samoan custom and culture.

“The question here is, should the interim order of the 16th of August stand in light of the clear order that was given by the final court of first instance for the Malietoa title to be conferred on Faamausili and the saofa’i to proceed.”

Judge Papali’i added that the Deputy Registrar has no jurisdiction to issue an interim order and it should not supersede the final decision by the Lands and Titles Court.

Judge Alalalatoa Rosella Papalii

Papali’i questioned the prosecution whether the interim order issued by the Deputy Registrar, was a preempted decision given that the order was issued before the actual ceremony took place.

The Prosecutor told the Judge that the interim order was issued when matais of Afega village sought an order from the Registrar when there was no reconciliation between them and the Malie village council on the bestowment.

“Your Honor, the order was not based on the Registrar. It was based on the inevitable dispute.”

Judge Papali’i then said that she will seek the view of the Attorney General whether the interim order was legal.

Earlier on in court, prosecution applied for Papali’i to recuse herself from presiding on the case because of her connection to the Papali’i title that is also held by the first defendant, Fa’amausili Papali’i Malietoa.

Counsel Atoa argued that there is a risk of apprehension in terms of impartiality, and bias.

However Judge Papali’i said, although her last name Papali’i is the same as the first defendant, she is under oath and that she does not have any personal connections to the defendants nor acted on their behalf while she was a lawyer.

The matter continues.

Malietoa Papalii Moli Malietoa with Malie village chiefs and relatives after the ceremony