Samoa’s Honours and Awards, and the new Matai Title called “Tui Falevao”

By Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa 24 November 2017, 12:00AM

What is it that this country’s Prime Minister, inexorably active Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has done so that he’s become such a lovable rogue whom everyone wants to emulate, and be his friend?

We have no idea.

All we know is that every time we see him he has that unique charm exuding from his smooth, bubbly face so that all of a sudden you’re finding yourself fighting the urge to run up and hug him tightly, like you’ve never hugged anyone else before in your entire life.

Now that’s how magnetically surreal old Tui’s charm feels as it’s playing with your mind, so that before you know it you’re completely mesmerized there’s nothing you can do but giggle and giggle, as those lousy butterflies are fluttering cheekily before your silly eyes.

Take for instance, the case of Samoa’s Honours and Awards Amendment Bill 2017, that was tabled on Monday last week by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, for its second reading. 

That Amendment Bill, we’ve now been told, is necessary since a number of amendments were being proposed in several sections of the current law, so that when all is done that one would be known as the Honours and Awards Act 1999.

The information below is from Parliament. 

It says:

In section 2 of the Principal Act; insert: “Chief Executive Officer of Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet” means the Secretary to Cabinet;” 

Section 6 and 8 – (1) In sections 6(2)(b) and 8 of the principal Act, for “Order of Samoa” substitute “Chief Order of Samoa”. (2) In section 6(2) of the principal Act: (a) in paragraph (c) delete “First Class”; (b) in paragraph (d) delete “Second Class”; (c) in paragraph (f) delete “Third Class”; and (d) in paragraph (g) delete “Fourth Class”. 

Section 20 substituted – In section 20 of the Principal Act, substitute: “20. Posthumous awards - The awards described in section 6 may be posthumously.” 

Section 23 amended – (1) For section 23 of the Principal Act: 

in subsection 2(a) and (b) substitute: “

Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, as Chairperson;

 the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Finance.”; 

 in subsection (2)(d)(iii), for “the chiefs and orators of Samoa,” substitute “representative of the community.”

 in subsection (5), substitute: 

(5) Ex-officious or Government employees on the Committee are not entitled to any sitting allowance.”

Now according to Prime Minister Tuilaepa, the awards were established in 1984, and they became official in 1985.

He told Parliament: “The reason this Act was established was so that the government could have principles (faiga fa’avae) to honour, or to award those who had been known for their service in the country.”

He also said: “It is the same principles that are followed in other countries; the areas include sports, professional services, as well as helping out through times of hardships.

 “Previously, the only thing we could do to honour the service of such people, especially foreigners, was where we bestowed matai titles that were not affected under the law of Lands and Titles which we call Honours.

 “We can bestow them with titles and confirmation to present to them that they have been honoured through their service to the country.

 “That is the final decision we came up with, but then there are still others who want to be bestowed (Samoan matai) titles” that Parliament would have to think about. 

According to the law though, foreigners who want to be bestowed matai titles can do so internationally if they wished, which means their titles “will have no impact under Samoa’s Lands and Titles Law.”

But then still there are unique cases that simply cannot be avoided. 

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi then gave what can be described as a classic example that would be difficult - or even impossible - to forget; it was to do with the bestowment of the Matai Title, “Tui Falevao”.

Tuilaepa told Parliament: “During the time of the United Nations meeting, someone approached me, and he told me that he was the one who’d pushed for the United Nations, to have a Special Day for Toilets.”

Tuilaepa said this chap told him: “The reason the United Nation had  agreed to this, was that more than 30 million people around the world died from unhygienic (problems), due to the fact that there are no toilets available especially in Third World, non-developed countries.”

Tuilaepa said it was at this point that he intervened.

 “I said thanks to him,” Tuilaepa told parliament. “I also asked him for his name and he told me that his name was Mr. Toilet.”

So what did Tuilaepa do next?

He told Parliament: “I said jokingly to him to come to Samoa. I also told him that I was the chief of my village of Falevao, and that I will give him a matai title if he came.” 

What next?

Tuilaepa also said: “One day he came to Samoa. He saw me and he said, he was here for his title bestowment.”

What next?

Tuilaepa said: “I gave him the matai title ‘Tui Falevao’.” 

Is that the family’s chiefly title? 

Tuilaepa didn’t say.

All he said was: “I mention this because of the importance of honouring people who have worked hard for the betterment of the world, as well as the country.

 “But the amendment of the bill is to delete the terms first class, second class and so forth, and all the titles given internationally, will be the same.

 “This is one reason the government thought of amending this Act.”

In response, the Member of Parliament for Salega, Olo Fiti Vaai, wanted to know if the change in the law would include those foreigners, who have been given titles that are not under the Lands and Titles Law, just to please them and nothing more.

In response, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said: “There is no such thing under the law.

 “You are talking about something quite different when we are talking about the law.”

Olo Fiti Vaai said: “The reason I was saying all these is that these were the normal acts that we did back in the days before the law was established but it is not happening anymore.”

This time Olo Fiti Vaai is ignored.

Elsewhere, life is moving casually along in Paradise; it is as if the rest of the world does not exist, and that way no one cares about what is going on, in the Legislative Assembly of the most complex little country in the world, called Samoa.

By Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa 24 November 2017, 12:00AM

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