The 7th International Measina conference will focus on the Samoan saying: ‘E sui faiga ae tumau fa’avae’ translated as ‘practices may change but the foundations remains’.
Hosted by the National University of Samoa every three to four years, the last conference was held in 2012.
The meeting was initiated to discuss the historical origins and contemporary state of what Samoans regard as treasurers in their customs and culture including the Samoan language.
Some of the questions to be discussed include:
• Can the traditional foundation (fa’avae) of the fa’asamoa remain in the context of mass title-sharing that we have witnessed in the last fifty years?
• Is the traditional fa’avae of land tenure still relevant?
• Have the traditional fa’avae of spiritual beliefs and practices survived the onslaught of introduced religion on Samoan ways of thinking?
N.U.S. Head of Department for Center of Samoan Studies, Seiuli Aloalii Temese said changes cannot be ignored and it is way of life.
“Some changes can affect the traditional foundation (fa’avae) of villages,” said Seiuli. “Not only that we have seen the customary lands legislation and talks on the powers of paramount chiefs which can affect how the customary lands are ruled.
“These are some of the topics that will be discussed and everyone is right in their own mind and the meeting will be a good opportunity to share views.”
Asked about the government’s move to seek public views to advice on ways to monitor the powers of paramount chiefs, Seiuli said opinions vary on the issue.
“The paramount chief (sao ole aiga) he or she has the powers over matai titles and family lands,” she said.
“You must remember there are many descendants (suli) of a family but the paramount chief he has the authority over land and title. My personal view is that any internal matter concerning family issues is for them to resolve."
“I believe that issues concerning titles and customary lands should not be meddled with…paramount chiefs and their families have the wisdom to solve their own issues (tofa loloto e fofo alamea).”
Samoan Studies Senior lecturer, Matiu Matavai Tautunu, agrees. Matiu believes the issues are timely with the international Measina conference. He said customary lands and powers of paramount chiefs are always sensitive issues.
“About the consultation on powers of the sa'o, I believe that the government is trying to gather some views on it,” said Matiu.
“But I don’t agree on the view that government should have any authority over the powers of the sa'o. Once the matai titles are affected it can also damage the traditional foundations of lands."
“About 80percent of lands are customary ruled by paramount chiefs and if there is an intention for government to rule the powers of paramount chiefs that is a big concern.”
According to Matiu if such push from government to rule the powers of paramount chiefs take place it will have a bearing on the ruling of customary lands.
He pointed out it will also have an effect on the ruling of matais who are heirs (faamatai suli) and the powers of the paramount chiefs.
“Paramount chiefs are elected by heirs,” he said.
“I believe that the government should reconsider the changes nowadays.”
About the international Measina conference, Matiu urged members of the public including those living in villages to register and share their views at the meeting.
Adults need to pay $100tala to register and $50tala for students.