The Mo’ui Foʻou ‘ia Kalaisi Fellowship has been awarded the lease of lands at Kolomotuʻa which have been the subject of a protracted battle between two churches.
The Tokaikolo Church wanted a declaration that the land on which the church stands, the church itself and its furnishings and two houses were the property of Tokaikolo and an order that vacant possession of the same be given.
In his ruling in the Land Court, Mr Justice Scott said he made his judgement based on the fact that the majority of fund raising, physical work on the land and church building had been done by local people and by members of the Fellowship who now worshipped there.
The matter of doctrinal differences was also a consideration in his judgement.
He also found that Cabinet had not acted properly in granting two competing requests for the lease of the land.
The Fellowship broke away from the Tokaikolo Christian Church International over the leadership style, perceived administrative irregularities and what were held to be the heresies of its president, Rev. Dr. Liufau Saulala.
The church at Kolomotu’a became the physical focal point of the Fellowship and Fellowship and members of the congregation who wanted to stay with the Tokaikolo church were not allowed to use it.
In a 53 page judgement in which he made extensive use of documents and submissions made to the court by both sides in the case, Mr Justice Scott laid out the history of the land and the doctrinal and financial crises which had beset the Tokaikolo church.
The founder of the Tokaikolo church, Rev. Senituli Koloi, preached withdrawal from the pleasures of the flesh, led a deeply prayerful life and practised and advocated intense fasting.
He scorned feasting, displays of wealth, excessive obeisance to the powerful and all forms of ostentation.
When Dr Saulala took over, there were feasts and gifts for guests and questions were raised about whether he was turning his back on Rev. Koloi’s beliefs.
Mr Justice Scott said it was clear that a number of members of the Tokokailo church felt it had deviated from its original doctrines. He said it was not up to the court to settle these differences, but noted that in his later statements on salvation Dr Saulala had departed from the core beliefs of Rev. Koloi.
In his report on the doctrinal issues of the case, Mr Justice Scott cited an earlier case that said:
“Where property is given for the purpose of a particular voluntary association having as its band of union one or more distinctive fundamental religious tenets or principles, the majority of such association cannot, in the absence of express provision, by amalgamating with another body which does not hold such tenets or principles as essential oust from the property belonging to such voluntary association the minority who still adhere to those tenets and principles”.
There were also serious questions about the church’s financial practises, including the failure to lodge proper financial records. Under Dr. Saulala the church became involved in a series of failed business ventures, including what were essentially magic pills. Dr Saulala made incredible claims about foreign investment in the church and became closely involved with a convicted conman, David Hobbs.
“There is nothing to rebut the suggestion that his dealings with Hobbs resulted in an enormous financial loss to the Church and to its members,” the judge said.
In July and September 2002 and January 2003, Neomai Holani, a widow, applied to the Minister of Land for his consent to the surrender of seven portions of her tax allotment totalling one acre, one rood and 10 perches “for the work of the Tokaikolo Church.”
The application was approved by Cabinet and a section 54 notice was published. After a year an application for a lease of the surrendered land was lodged by The Tokaikolo Christian Fellowship.
This application was approved by Cabinet in November 2005 and resulted in a lease finally being granted on 18 September 2009.
“Unfortunately, when the lease was granted to the Tokaikolo Fellowship in Christ of Kolomotu, the Ministry overlooked the fact that in 2006 a second application for a lease of the land, plus a small extra piece, had been received from Sione Maile, then the General Secretary of the Tokaikolo Church,” Mr Justice Scott said.
“This application, necessarily entailing the cancellation of the first application, was also approved by Cabinet.
“The result of this oversight is that no lease, in the form and to the lessee last approved by Cabinet has ever been issued while the lease actually registered (and mortgaged) is not in the name of the lessee last approved by Cabinet,” Mr Justice Scott said.
The Tokaikolo Church’s application was dismissed.
The main points
- The Mo’ui Fo’ou ‘ia Kalaisi Fellowship has been awarded the lease of lands at Kolomotu’a which have been the subject of a protracted battle between two churches.
- The Tokaikolo Church wanted a declaration that the land on which the church stands, the church itself and its furnishings and two houses were the property of Tokaikolo; and an order that vacant possession of the same be given.
- In his ruling in the Land Court, Mr Justice Scott, said he made his judgement based on the fact that the majority of fund raising , physical work on the land and church building had been done by local people and by members of the Fellowship who now worshipped there.
- The matter of doctrinal differences was also a consideration in his judgement.
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