Monday, April 6, 2009

Dispute Resolution in Samoa: Court Upholds Banishment Order After Village Rejects a Traditional Apology (Ifoga)

Samoa An article by Marieta Heidi Ilalio in the Samoa Observer reports that the Samoa Land and Titles Court has upheld the banishment ordered against Former Somoan Cabinet Minister Vaiotu Mulitalo Siafausa Vui, his wife, and his children.  They have reportedly been given a week to leave Vaimoso, following a longstanding dispute between Vaiotu Mulitalo and Ali’i ma Faipule (village council) of Vaimoso.  The village had rejected a traditional apology (ifoga) offered on behalf of the former cabinet minister.  We reported on this issue previously in the context of increasing understanding of various forms of dispute resolution used throughout the world. 

The former cabinet minister had no comment about the court's decision upholding the banishment order, but villagers from Vaimoso villagers were reportedly pleased that the court upheld the village's decision.  According to the Samoa Observer, Paramount chief,To’oma’augaune Kelekolio II said that the court's decision was "God’s answer to their prayers."  He said. "thanks should be given to God for meting justice and revealing the truth that the village has long awaited.  We will return to our village and give thanks to God."

The village rejected the traditional apology (ifoga) presented two weeks ago by the family of Vaiotu.  Instead, the village council through a high-ranking matai (chief) banished the former Cabinet Minister and his family from the village.  His offenses appear to be a string of indiscrepancies committed within his wife’s village, including calling a village meeting 13 years ago without authority to do so, taking part in the bestowal of the Manuleleua title on three persons (again without authority), and allegedly brandishing a gun over a land dispute last year.

Vaiotu was banished last month from Vaimoso for "unfounded" statements he made to the media concerning the reason for his ostracism in 1999, but he refused to leave the village.  The village council then reportedly decided to mete a punishment called mu le foaga, in which the person's house and belongings are burned.  Religious ministers and police intervened before his house was burned, and the matter instead referred to Samoa's Land and Titles Court .  The court advised both sides to reconcile, which led to the ifoga that was rejected.  The latest ruling of the court upheld the village's right to order the banishment.

Hat tip to the East-West Center in Honolulu


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