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Court delivers landmark decision about Togamau

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The Land and Titles Court at Mulinu’u has issued a landmark decision affirming the authority of “Tuia” of Vaie’e Safata over “Togamau.”

Made last Friday, the ruling follows a hearing conducted over two days in February, which included a site visit to Togamau in Vaie’e.

To this day, the district of Safata is recognised as being comprised of the two traditional “malae” or meeting places of “ Siulepa” located in the village of Sataoa and encompassing the villages of Saanapu and Lotofaga and “Togamau” in Vaie’e, which encompasses the villages of Mulivai, Fausaga, Fusi and Niusuatia.

The historical significance of “Togamau” is the fact that it is a meeting place of the Safata district and was referred to hundreds of years ago by Tole’afoa in the famous saying: “If you had acknowledged me at Si’ulepa, I would acknowledge you at Togamau.”

Togamau also has significant historical connections to the district of Tuamasaga and the “fale Mataafa.”

It is still current practice that when a significant event occurs in the Tuamasaga district, a notification is given personally to Tuia at his residence of Togamau.

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The Land and Titles Court decision stated firstly, that: “The authority over Togamau in Vaie’e is confirmed by the Court to be in the title Tuia, currently held by Tuia Pu’a Letoa and Tuia Aufonolua.”

Secondly, “That the land is located where Tuia Taotofi is buried.” According to the evidence of Tuia Logoiai Pu’a Letoa, the name “Togamau” is derived from the words “Toga” and “mau”, referring in history to the period when Tongans resided in Vaie’e.

Hundreds of skeletal remains were uncovered in the 1990’s at “Togamau” in Vaie’e, and are believed to belong to Tongans who resided in the area hundreds of years earlier.

After discovery of the remains, the Tuia family reburied the skulls and bones at “Togamau” because of the historical significance.

The Land and Titles Court rejected the argument by Te’o Rimoni Ah Chong, Te’o Eteuati and others, that “Togamau” is held by both the “Te’o” and “Tuia” titles and that the malae of “Togamau” encompassed the whole village of Vaie’e from Niusuatia to Fusi.

The Land and Titles Court found that such a notion is contrary to custom and usage, since two titles cannot reside in one “maota” or meeting place and a notification from the district of Tuamasaga could not be delivered to any residence in Vaie’e except Togamau, the residence of Tuia.

Tuia Letoa acknowledged and thanked the Second Petitioners in the case led by Te’o Unasa Le’ulu Dr. Felise Va’a and the Te’o family of Lealofisa, Vaie’e, for supporting the traditional and historical significance of “Togamau” and the authority of the Tuia title.

Outside the Courthouse, Tuia Logoiai Pu’a Letoa called for reconciliation of Vaie’e which is currently divided.

“If we retain the traditions and customs established in history by our ancestors, then peace will naturally prevail. It is crucial that we understand and uphold our history for future generations,” said Tuia.

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