The Tealiki Story – 3. The Claim

In this the third post in The Tealiki Story series I share the Statement of Claim lodged in Samoa Supreme Court – the core of this case. I give commentary by way of explanation for those not familiar with court processes or Samoan land issues.

Please read the Statement of Claim in PDF Format [716k].

A Statement of Claim is an originating document which is filed (lodged) in a particular court. It commences a “matter” or a case. It is required to be in a certain format and laws deal with how it is dealt with.

The Tealiki Statement of Claim was lodged in 2009 . . . there were various matters dealt with in the legal system from 2009 to 2015, when it was finally heard [aka going/gone to trial]. The hearing was around a week long. The public could (and did) attend, and this included the media, who then published various details in the local rags, radio and TV.

The Plaintiff is Gafatasi ‘Mika’ Fuimaono. He is the one who commenced the court action. In the interim he died and his surviving wife Vavae and one of his daughters Lusia (Lucia) took over his case as per his will.

The defendant is the Public Trustee, in two capacities – trustee of the Tealiki Estates and Trustee of the Hunter Estates. The Public Trustee is the entity established (yes in Samoa that means controlled) by the government to manage affairs of people who die without making a will. Tealiki was one of those.

Mika claimed many things but essentially he claimed that he was one of the rightful heirs of the Tealiki lands (Clause 7).

He also claimed that he lodged his claim in 2005/6 and that he complied with the requirements to provide sufficient proof  but that the Public Trustee did nothing to give him his share of the lands in dispute (Clause 8).

Then comes the important part of his Statement of Claim, what he seeks from the court (i.e. the Judge). At the bottom of Page 4, he asks the Judge to rule that he is a rightful descendant. He also asks for the court to rule on how the land should be divided up and more.

This is what the judge ruled on at trial, in this case Mika gained recognition from the judge that he was indeed a descendant of a Tealiki (a partial win) but not that he was a descendant of THE Tealiki Apai, who owned the lands in question (a bad loss).

In later clauses, Mika raised issues relating to the Public Trustee’s conduct in administering the lands, and also claimed that other lands allocated to the Hunters were rightfully his.

The judge addressed these matters in his verdict released some months later.

Following the filing of a Statement of Claim, the Defendants (The Public Trustee and others involved) had a right to defend Mika’s claim (they did) and to lay a counterclaim (and they did this too). Essentially the Public Trustee said that they had done everything in good faith; that they acted on a sworn statement that Tealiki had no children back in 1958 and that the people who had secured the land for themselves claimed that Mika’s claim was all a fabrication.

At trial the judge accepted that the Public Trustee had acted in good faith and the counterclaim was not addressed for technical reasons.

In the next post I cover the trial and judgment, a curious sequence of events that clearly has connotations of the politics that are integral with life in Samoa. It’s well worthy of a read!


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