Hearing on Landowners’ Case Begins in Court
The counsel for a chief in a matter brought by members of a mataqali before the High Court in Lautoka has been given 21 days to file a statement of defence.
The plaintiff, Vetaia Bari Ralulu, on behalf of the members of the mataqali Tilivasewa of the yavusa Bila of Tavua served the Writ of Summons on January 18 to the Tui Tavua, Ratu Nacanieli Uqeuqe, and second defendants Ovini Bokini and Sikeli Ralulu.
Talei Tuitoga, the counsel for Ratu Nacanieli, had failed to file an acknowledgement of service and defence within the given time.
For the second defendants, the plaintiff had submitted a judgment in default. The court then ordered the plaintiff to file a summons under Order 19 Rule 7.
According to the summons, the defence was ordered to appear in court yesterday to be heard. The plaintiff had applied for the judgment against the second defendants. A sum of $370,000 was quoted on the grounds set out in the affidavit of the plaintiff.
The writ of summons, filed by the plaintiff’s lawyers Nawaikula Esquire, wants a declaration that the defendants acted unlawfully by their failure to distribute income equally to the mataqali members.
The plaintiff also wanted the High Court to issue an order that the defendants pay the mataqali members $370,000.
The statement of claim in the writ notes that Ratu Nacanieli, Bokini and Sikeli Ralulu were purported trustees of mataqali Tilivasewa who had organised themselves to be such in December 2016. It resulted in their drawing of $450,000 belonging to mataqali Tilivasewa.
The plaintiff cited Regulation 11 of the Native Land Trust (Leases and Licences) Regulations, as amended in 2010 which says “After deduction of any sums in accordance with Section 14 of the Act, the balance of any monies received by the Board by way of rents and premiums in respect of native land, including any monies received by the Board, but not yet distributed at date of commencement of the Native Land Trust (Leases and Licences) Regulations 2010, shall be distributed by the Board to all the living members of the proprietary unit, in equal proportion.”
In the chronology of events listed in the Writ of Summons, the plaintiff said following the Native Land Trust (Leases and Licences) (Amendment) Regulation 2010 becoming law, communal distribution was removed and direct distribution was made to individual members in equal shares.
It said that when this law came into effect, individual members started receiving their individual income.
It further stated that in December 2016, following the payment of a premium by a tenant, Total Service Station, it is alleged that the first and second defendants acted together to appoint the second defendants as trustees and paid them $450,000.
The plaintiff alleged that upon receiving the payment of $450,000 the second defendants distributed only $80,000 to members of the mataqali, an undisclosed amount was allegedly paid to the wife of Ratu Nacanieli, another undisclosed amount allegedly paid to Aims Rental Cars and an undisclosed sum allegedly used for the second defendants’ own use and purpose.
The plaintiff claims TLTB, in facilitating the release of the $450,000 and Ratu Nacanieli, Bokini and Sikeli Ralulu in withdrawing it acted unlawfully and in breach of Regulation 11 of the above mentioned law.
The plaintiff claims the mataqali members, as a result, suffered a loss of $370,000 that they alleged was unaccounted for and not distributed. Due to the absence of the plaintiff’s counsel, Justice Suseela Sapuvida has adjourned the matter to April 24.
Edited by Ranoba Baoa