After reading the Samoa Observer article (yesterday) about a court decision involving land dispute and banishment in a village in Samoa, I couldn’t help but think that the court arbitrators must have read my blog ...LOL! A village fono decision to banish a family has been overturned by the Court.
Here’s another important development in the ongoing clash between the faa-matai and democracy, as discussed in one of my posts dated October 15 titled “Faa-Matai and Democracy - An Analysis” from which the following excerpt - as prologue - is taken:
Democracy: Private ownership
Faa-Matai: Communally owned, and intrinsically attached to chiefly titles (matai).
Here’s a question that may not have been specifically answered as far as land ownership is concerned. Who owns family land in the village - the village or the aiga? The Land & Titles Court, handles and resolves cases involving land disputes among families, hence land virtually belongs to the aiga. Yet, when a family is banished, the expression goes, “ua faasa ma ele’ele o le nu’u” (“they’re banned from village lands”). Of course there’s village land that will be off-limits to the culprits, BUT the land they live on is theirs, and I’m sure there are banished families that can subsist and sustain their everyday lives on their land (incl. access to government roads) without ever setting foot on the rest of “village” lands. Banishment is cruel and deprive families of their rights to their land. Where does the village council get its authority to ban an aiga from its legal and rightful property? It may come from the communal mandate on which village administration is based, if not some frivolous eminent domain regulations or confiscating powers of the village council. Or it could be based on the village’s claim and control on matai titles which, ideally, are inseparable from customary/traditional land ownership."
Compare that with these excerpts from the article on the ruling (compare matching color-coded text):
"The Land and Titles Court has rejected an application from Tanugamanono village to legalise the eviction of a family from their village."
"The hearing was before the Vice President of Land and Titles, Fuimaono Nonu, on Friday 5 November. In its ruling delivered a week later, the Court accepted Ms Tutuila’s application to return to their property and live in Tanugamanono."
"The family of Faumuina Tutuila was ordered to leave their home and store within a month. Fuimaono told the Court, the gist of the village’s application was to legalise the banishment of the family from all lands belonging to Tanugamanono."
"Vice President Fuimaono pointed out the village’s decision to evict the family was harsh considering there are other forms of punishment which could have been used against the family."