Samoa Prime Minister Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa has announced the appointment of a new Lands and Titles Court President for Samoa, to replace Fepuleai Attila Ropati.
“I wish to advise the public that His Honour Lesatele Rapi Vaai has been appointed to the position of the President of the Lands and Titles Court as per provisions of the Constitutional Amendment Act of 2020”.
The Prime Minister confirmed Lesatele would be sworn in this coming Wednesday the 2nd of November.
“Lesatele is a lawyer and was first appointed as Judge of the District Court in 1996..
“He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2001 until 2017..
“In 2021 he was again appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court”.
“As a senior Samoan matai together with his vast experience in the workings of the Courts including the Lands and Titles Court, he will bring wise leadership to the Presidency of the Lands and Titles Court,” added the Prime Minister.
Fiame also acknowledged the outgoing President, who has lodged a legal challenge in the Supreme Court claiming he was removed summarily without process.
“I wish to acknowledge His Honour Fepuleai Atilla Ropati who is the outgoing President of the Lands and Titles Court for his service on this important Court on matters Samoan”.
The Prime Minister concluded by highlighting the central role of the Lands and Titles Court to the protection and preservation of Samoa’s customs and traditions.
“Samoa e, e le po lava malaē i le taua tele o lenei Faamasinoga, aua o le puipuiga o a tatou measina, o tofi o aiga ma nuu ma itumalo, ma le atunuu i ona fanua ma suafa.. o loo taoto i le Faamasinoga o Fanua ma Suafa.”
The Prime Minister wished His Honour Lesatele Rapi Vaai God’s blessings on his appointment.
At about the same time of the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday afternoon, Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese delivered a decision to dismiss a motion by Fepuleai Attila Ropati, requesting interim declaration orders against his removal as President of the Land and Titles Court.
“I am satisfied there is a serious issue to be tried; namely, whether section 67 of the Land and Titles Court Act 2020 means the Applicant was summarily dismissed without cause as the President of the Court when the Act came into force,” states the CJ in his decision.
“And if he was not, can he nevertheless be subsequently dismissed whilst he is carrying out his duties under the transitional provisions of the Act?”
The substantive hearing of Fepuleai’s petition is scheduled to be heard before the Supreme Court later this month.