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Historically, Fokonolona, ​​made up of the inhabitants of a Fokontany and forming the basic community of society, is a judicial institution. It is Andrianampoinimerina who establishes it. After Andrianampoinimerina, the Fokonolona no longer exercises its rights neither in the same way nor with so much happiness, explains Razoharinoro-Randriamboavonjy, archivist paleographer.
According to the latter, “the Fokonolona was called upon to deal only with cases which did not relate to offenses committed against the person of the sovereign or the State”. This kind of crime is punishable by the death penalty, which the king reserves to be the sole judge because “all recognized that he had the life of each of his subjects”.
Yet, in some cases, the king or queen is not the sole holder of this privilege. If the flagrant misdemeanor is proved, the criminal can pay with his life, if the Fokonolona judges so. “Thereafter, this practice became so common that no one had to say if the Fokonolona pronounced the death penalty. “
When Radama I, the successor of Andrianampoinimerina, instituted the order of
“Andriambaventy” or “Farantsa” to play the role of a judicial body, the Fokonolona gradually ceases to be a judicial institution. He was denied the right to impose the death penalty on a criminal caught in the act. “This gradual divestment erased the judicial aspect of the role of the Fokonolona. “
In the years following the reign of Radama I, especially under Radama II, the courtiers and companions of debauchery of this king are awarded the title of judges. Any authority is thus removed from the hands of the Fokonolona who recovers his rights to judge at the end of the reign of Radama II.
This judicial institution is a well-organized structure. If someone is guilty of a crime or an offense within his administrative district, he is dragged to the “Mpiadidy” or denounced to him. The interrogation followed when the “Mpiadidy” gathered all the members of the Fokonolona. Thereafter, the culprit is convicted. It is executed by the payment of the “orimbato”, its fines and the silver piastre destined to the sovereign in sign of allegiance.
The “orimbato” serves as evidence of the judgment actually rendered by the Fokonolona. The payment of the piastre d’argent officializes the act of Fokonolona. No one may question a case already adjudicated in this way. The one who questions the decision of the Fokonolona is taxed from “mitsoa-bato” (literally withdraw its stone, its suffrage, thus to decline, to retract).
The parties in a lawsuit, each claiming the ownership of certain property, for example, may sometimes agree to the imposition of the Fokonolian jurisdiction. “If necessary, each party explained itself to the assembly, which then decided first and last resort. The accomplishment of the orimbato and the payment of the silver piastre sealed the procedure. “
Often, after the Fokonolona has said its last word, one proclaims by way of ritual:
“To those who dispute this judgment, the following fines shall be imposed: he shall give an ox, and pay thirty dollars of silver as a sign of allegiance to the sovereign.” This formula is of frequent use after 1864.
If the Fokonolona knows that a dispute arises between two people, it can take the initiative to invite them to explain themselves in front of its members in order to be “treated” by them. The procedure is the same as that presented previously.
“Ordinary” offenses such as kidnapping, pickpocketing, drunkenness, attempted murder, disputes over a rice paddy or any other property are within the jurisdiction of Fokonolona. On the other hand, the latter automatically rejects a crime committed against the State or the person of the sovereign, especially if the crime must entail the death penalty as a punishment. If necessary, the Fokonolona is limited to facilitating the appearance of the accused before the Royal High Court, thanks to the local representatives of the king (“vadintany”, a sort of usher, and “antily”). The procedure is the same when there is a stubborn “mitsoa-bato”.