The Traditional Rights Court has issued an opinion on a long-contested piece of property in the Delap area of Majuro.
The three-judge TRC panel issued its opinion late last month concerning Lokejbar weto (land parcel) in Delap, saying that portions of this weto are shared among Aqua Patrick, Quincy Calep and Noah Noah.
The lagoon side portion of Lokejbar weto directly across from Delap Elementary School has been the subject of conflicting land leases over many decades. It has seen multiple competing interests attempting to use the same property in a downtown area that defines the word “contentious” as it applies to land use — with the result that no one actually made use of the property, which remains an open lot sandwiched between MISSA and the Life Skills Academy on east side and the late President Imata Kabua’s house on the west side.
The TRC opinion follows four days of hearings before the TRC held over a one-year period in 2018 and 2019. The TRC panel’s opinion was issued by Acting Presiding Judge Grace Leban, Associate Judge Nixon David, and Pro Tem Associate Judge Caios Lucky.
Noah Noah and Alexander Noah had sued Aqua Patrick and Quincy Calep in 2015 over the property, which is located where Delap Elementary School is. Batle Latdrik had intervened to present his claim in the case.
The Noahs argued that they held alap and senior dri jerbal rights for the entire weto. They said prior to his death, their father Bojan Noah, made a “kalimur” (will) giving all of Lokejbar to his children, including Noah and Alex.
Aqua and Quincy contended, however, that Bojan made an additional kalimur giving the lagoon side of the weto to Aqua in thanks for her looking after him and his wife when they sought medical care in Hawaii.
Batle claimed that as a descendant of Liolet, who was alap on Lokejbar and other wetos, he is now the proper person to hold the alap title on the weto.
The High Court gave three question to the TRC to answer regarding Lokejbar weto:
• Between Noah, Aqua and Batle, who is alap over the lagoon side?
• Between Noah and Batle, who is the alap over the ocean side?
• Between Alexander and Quincy, who is the senior dri jerbal over the lagoon side?
The TRC said the answers to questions one, two and three, respectively, are: Aqua, Noah and Quincy.
All parties agreed that the late Iroojlaplap Lein Zedkeia was the iroojlaplap for the land, and they agreed that in 1959, Liolet was the alap.
In summarizing testimony during the hearings, the TRC noted: “They all stated that they saw Bojan exercising the alap and senior dri jerbal (rights) on Lokejbar weto when he was alive. It is the argument of the Plaintiffs (Noah and Alexander) that since Liolet’s time, Bojan Noah and his family have lived and worked on Lokejbar weto, but not Batle, nor Aqua.”
On the other hand, Aqua and Quincy said they hold both titles on the lagoon side because Bojan made a kalimur on January 18, 2002 providing 1.5 acres of the lagoon side of the weto for Aqua and her descendants. This is the same location where OCF International Co. Ltd. had earlier leased, according to documents provided to the court.
“According to the testimony of witness Aqua Patrick and Quincy Calep, Bojan Noah had given the lagoon side of Lokejbar weto to Aqua as a way of showing gratitude for her kindness when she took care and looked after Bojan and his wife when they were in Hawaii seeking medical care,” said the TRC. Aqua and Quincy also presented into evidence copies of three checks written out to Tony deBrum totaling $15,000 to reimburse OCF International Co., Ltd for its earlier lease payment for the same property.
Court testimony confirmed that Bojan made two kalimurs, one for his family, and one for Aqua.
“It is evident…that Bojan Noah held the alap and senior dri jerbal (rights) on Lokejbar weto, and was recognized by the late Iroojlaplap Amata Kabua, Leroj Atama Zedkaia, Iroojlaplap Jurelang Zedkaia, and now Iroojlaplap Lein Zedkeia,” said the TRC in its opinion issued late last month.
The TRC concluded that Noah Noah is the proper person to hold the alap rights to all of Lokejbar weto, except for the lagoon side.
The TRC panel confirmed the existence of the two kalimurs determining the disposition of rights on the land. “This evidence proves that Bojan Noah had meant to give alap and senior dri jerbal rights of the lagoon side of Lokejbar weto to Aqua Patrick and (for) the rest of Lokejbar the same rights to his children,” said the TRC.
The TRC makes the point that Alap Bojan was recognized throughout his life by the iroojlaplaps for the land. “They did not dispute the fact that…Bojan Noah had every right to do whatever he wished to do on Lokejbar weto,” said the TRC.
The TRC’s opinion now will go for a “Rule 9” hearing before a High Court judge. This will review the evidence established during the TRC hearings and the TRC’s opinion, with the High Court either confirming the opinion or, in rare cases, returning it to the TRC for additional review.
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