Pago Pago Village Council vs Tuaolo dispute rescheduled for September
by Ausage Fausia
Samoa News Reporter
Chief Justice Michael Kruse has granted a motion by private counsel Charles Alailima to continue the trial between the Pago Pago Village Council (PPVC) and an ousted matai of Pago Pago, High Talking Chief Tuaolo Meko Aiumu, until some time in September of this year to allow the PPVC to finalize some issues that need to be resolved before the case goes to trial. The matter is before the Land and Title Division of the High Court of American Samoa.
Attorney Alailima, who is off island is representing the PPVC while attorney, Togiola T. A Tulafono is representing Tuaolo.
When the case was called, Alailima through a telephone device asked the court to reschedule the trial and stated that he needs more time to talk to the chiefs of Pago Pago, along with some witnesses to prepare the PPVC for the trial.
One of the issues he mentioned was the passing of one of the key witnesses for the PPVC, Fanene Morris Scanlan.
He also told the court that there is a possibility of a settlement discussion between the two parties, but the village chiefs need to discuss some issues first.
Kruse cut in and told Alalima that the court isn’t interested in a “settlement discussion” at this point in time — “we have to deal with this matter first,” Kruse told Alalima. Kruse then granted the motion and asked both Alailima and Togiola to get together with the Court’s Clerk to find an available date for the trial.
When asked by Samoa News last month about this case, Pago Pago Paramount Chief, Mauga Tasi Asuega stated that the PPVC would call a hearing with Tuaolo to see if things could be ironed out.
When asked why it is taking so long for him to reconcile his village, Mauga said it wasn’t too late to reconcile his village, however — unfortunately the matter is now before the court and he has to make sure lawyers are involved in whatever the village council and Tuaolo decide needs to be done.
The matter reached the court when Tuaolo’s name was removed by the PPVC from the list of families who are receiving monetary shares from the National Park land lease agreement.
Tuaolo through his attorney, Togiola then filed a petition asking the court for a preliminary injunction to stop the PPVC from continuing the process of delisting his name from the land lease they submitted to the court, until the case is heard and they get into the merit of the delisting of Tuaolo, and the authority of the Village Council to change the original lease.
This hearing was continued from April of this year when the court issued an interim order for a further continuance in the matter, based on the fact that Alailima had just been retained by PPVC.
In delivering his order, Kruse said that since the matter is in court, the dispute will be resolved according to the process of the court, unless the parties are able to come to a settlement through counsels.
What was revealed in April hearing was a settlement attempt by one party directly to the other side without the involvement of the lawyers.
Kruse told both sides that one party going to the other party directly and avoiding that party’s lawyer is a transgression that is subject to legal consequences.
The court went on to say that now with counsel Alailima’s involvement, there is a communication link with the other side and if the sides want to look at a settlement, it must be done through counsel.
According to information obtained by Samoa News from several members of the PPVC, the matter that is now before the court likely stems from a long battle between Paramount Chief Mauga Tasi and Tuaolo Meko.
The battle started from a disagreement between members of the Pago Pago CCCAS Church back in 2016, where both Mauga and Tuaolo are members.
One side of the church including Mauga supported the decision to remove the church minister, while the other side including Tuaolo disagreed with the decision and wanted their church minister to stay.
According to some who claim knowledge about the situation, the battle inside the church did not end there, but continued to flow out into the village, where Mauga allegedly took matters into his own hands and make a decision to remove the title of County Chief from Tuaolo without any solid ground that supported this decision, they claim.
Samoa News was present during the Eastern District meeting in December 2016 at the Mauga guest house in Pago Pago, where Mauga kicked Tuaolo out of the meeting by instructing him to go outside of the house because he was no long considered a matai of PPVC.
In his response before he left the meeting, Tuaolo told Mauga he has no authority to kick him out of the meeting, but out of respect and wanting to keep the peace, he complied.