Much has been said about the Electoral Act, especially in relation to the requirement for a matai to render service or monotaga to their village, so that they are eligible to be an election candidate.
Understandably, many people – including candidates who have been dragged before the Court and disqualified - are frustrated, claiming that this is all part of the H.R.P.P power play and manipulative tactics.
Others including the Opposition Party have argued that the requirement violates a matai’s basic human right to be a candidate and have therefore promised to remove it completely should they win next week’s General Elections.
There is also another school of thought, which argues that women should be exempt from the requirement, for several reasons.
One for instance is that many women who are matai do not sit in village council meetings where monotaga is provided. Besides, they claim that if the government is really true to its intention to have more women in the halls of power, the requirement is obviously a barrier, therefore contradicting what it hopes to achieve. It’s a valid point.
Another element to this whole issue of monotaga was raised in Court this week when former Finance Minister, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga challenged the eligibility of his rival, Le Tagaloa Dr. Pitapola in Court.
Now this, we found, was a very interesting case. It deserves to be further examined with the view of clarifying whether the law now supersedes cultural and traditional norms.
For the uninitiated, at the heart of the dispute was a village protocol where a pāpā or a paramount chief is not required to render a monotaga.
Le Tagaloa did not deny not rendering any monotaga to his village. But he argued that “such monotaga is normally performed by matai of lesser importance…and he is not one of those matai (title holders).”
Yesterday, the Court ruled in favour of Faumuina, disqualifying Le Tagaloa from being a candidate. We would be very interested in the Court’s reasons.
We say this because this has now set a benchmark where politically motivated pieces of legislations are meddling with the sacred affairs of villages. This is scary and potentially has dangerous ramifications.
What’s to stop them hand picking the Member of Parliament next time?
Folks, don’t get me wrong. We’re not against the concept of the monotaga.
There is a Samoan saying ‘O le tagata ma lona fa’asinomaga.’ Similarly, a matai’s fa’asinomaga is firstly to their family and then the village council where a monotaga is part of life.
We have far too many cases in Samoa where matai titleholders wear these big titles like badges and roam around town doing nothing. We believe this is wrong.
At the end of the day, we didn’t need a piece of legislation to enforce the rendering of monotaga. Indeed, we shouldn’t have to have a law for matais to serve their families and villages. Which means that a monotaga should come naturally as soon as we are bestowed a title – unless a title is the exception to the rule such as the tradition at Le Tagaloa’s village.
The other exception of course is titleholders living overseas. We accept that this is a challenging situation but there are ways of getting around this too. And many villages in Samoa already practise this. Say the village is having a laulau tasi, the monotaga can be rendered by the matai’s family in the village. The overseas-based matai on the other hand can compensate by sending their family some money.
This is happening in many cases already.
So why are we talking about this?
And what is the point?
In our humble view, all these pieces of legislation and court battles surrounding the issue of the monotaga would not be happening if individuals do what is right.
And what is the right thing to do, you may ask?
If you are a matai, a monotaga is part of life. It comes with the territory.
Many people have criticised the government for making it compulsory for election candidates to have a monotaga.
They have got a point to an extent.
But if anything, in this case, we think the government has got it right. Over the years, we have seen far too many candidates only visit their villages a couple of months before the election. And once the election is finished, they disappear again.
This is unfair, it is wrong.
We repeat, it is sad that we needed a law to remind us about the importance of the monotaga. But then sometimes, the only way to right a wrong is to enforce it through legislation and make sure everyone is on the same page.
But that of course is only our opinion.
What about you? What do you think?
Have a wonderful Friday Samoa, God bless!