Samoa Police have made 12 arrests and say more are expected to be charged in relation to a horrifying village council decision that ruled a 72 year old was to be placed onto the burning rocks of a umu (traditional oven).
The ruling was not actually carried out in its entirety, however, the victim sustained serious injuries and required stitches to his neck.
According to witnesses and also seen on social media posts- the Lefagaoalii EFKS church minister intervened. He is seen kneeling before village matai, pleading for the life of the victim who identified himself as Sooalo Asiata Alaimanuomalo Lepa Vitale Tuu on ET Live.
A video that is being widely shared on social media, shows the elderly man being tied up by his hands and legs, and carried through the village like an animal.
Deputy Police Commissioner Papalii Monalisa Tiai-Keti in response to questions from Samoa Global News, said six matai and six untitled men (taulele’a) have so far been arrested and remain in police custody.
One of the men arrested has been transferred to Tanumalala Prison in Upolu for causing grievous bodily harm to the elderly matai.
“He is being charged for using a sharp object to injure the victim further..” said Papalii.
The victim is an elderly man, also a matai of Lefagaoalii, said to be 72 years old.
“He was taken to Tuasivi hospital and will be moved to Motootua National Hospital.”
At the time of this publication, the video showing the victim being carried from his home has been shared over 5,300 times with over 2,500 comments by the public denouncing the decision and acts of Lefagaoalii village.
Villagers have told SGN the incident arose after the elderly man and a deacon reverand of the Catholic church got into a heated argument over land.
The victim is said to travel back and forth from Samoa to visit his children overseas.
“He had returned to find what he believed was his land, being used by the faifeau for a pigpen..”
“Ua fai ai le atiinaea sai puaa a le faifeau..”
It is alleged the victim swore at the faifeau during the heated exchange which followed.
A meeting of the Village Council was called to discuss the matter and the elderly man was declared banished.
When he did not heed to the banishment, the Village Council elevated its position and called for an age-old, pre-Christianity ruling – to prepare a umu of burning rocks to place him on (tao i le umu).
The ruling was not carried out in its entirety however, the elderly man was carried through the village in the most demeaning way possible – tied up as an animal.
“It is quite a long way and when the taulelea got tired, they would throw him down to take a rest,” one witness said.
Deputy Police Commissioner Papalii Monalisa says more arrests are expected as the investigation continues.