The ongoing conflict within the village of Matautu Falelatai has resulted in five untitled men (taulelea) being arrested for destroying a family’s water pipes. Deputy Police Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Filipo says the five are charged with damaging property, which is a matter to be heard before the District Court.
Last month, SGN reported that police had responded to grievances between villagers at Matautu Falelatai, caused by a disagreement on a decision to bring a new church into the village.
A former Judge of the Lands and Titles Court (LTC) also a high chief of Falelatai, Anae Misa Pita, wanted to establish a branch of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in the village for those who had converted. This was disallowed by the Village Council who say the ban on new churches in Matautu Falelatai is a well known fact by all members of the village.
Police confirm the ongoing dispute reached an impasse that ultimately led to the village splitting into two governing structures; the main village or “nuu tele” and a breakaway village “faiganuu lona lua”.
The nu’u tele or original Village Council is led by most of the Alii and Faipule of Matautu, while the breakaway village was established by Anae Misa Pita.
Auapaau confirmed all five arrests are members of the “nu’u tele” who had allegedly cut all the water pipes to the families of the breakaway village, leaving them without a water supply. Children from the breakaway village had also been banned from attending the village primary school.
The five accused will appear in the District Court later this month, charged with intentional damage to property.
Auapaau says these arrests are the first to be made from an ongoing investigation into the grievances lodged with police. “There may be more arrests as investigations continue,” he said.
Other villages where village chiefs (matai) and untitled men are facing police charges for breaking the law are Faleu, Manono for destroying a family’s home and business property, Sasina village where matai are being charged for uttering threatening words on a Facebook live, and Salelologa where villagers blocked public roads to stop an HRPP political car rally from passing by.
In an interview with SGN Samoa’s Minister of Police Faualo Tauiliili Lefau Harry Schuster said Village Councils across Samoa play an important role in the community, however, they are also reminded that their actions are not above the law.
“My advice to all Alii and Faipule across Samoa”, said Faualo; “Use our authority as Alii and Faipule to uphold the Law, and let us not use our power as Alii and Faipule to allow illegal acts and then protect those involved from facing the consequences..
“That is not acceptable. It is not tolerated under the Law, and it is also not tolerated in our Samoan customs and traditions,” states the Minister of Police.