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“This is not a village,” Tuilaepa sets record straight on titles

Matai (chiefly) titles bestowed outside Samoa without the presence and blessings of the Village Council are “lies.”

The description was offered by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in Auckland where he attended Waitangi Day celebration with a delegation from Samoa.

During an interview with Radio Samoa, the Prime Minister was told about grievances from some members of the Samoan community in New Zealand who believe they should be able to carry out a saofai (title bestowal ceremony) there.

But Tuilaepa said matai titles bestowed without a usu from the Village Council are not legitimate. 

The usu involves the presence of the Village Council during a bestowal ceremony where they offer their blessings through a chosen orator, followed by an ava ceremony. 

In return, the new titleholders and their families offer gifts of money and food.

“You cannot bestow titles unless the village is involved through a usu. So the titles that are bestowed here (in New Zealand) are all lies,” he said.

“They have to go to Samoa for the village to carry out a usu. That is Samoan tradtion and culture. So anybody who comes and does that here, they are deceiving people.”

Tuilaepa, who holds several matai titles, said he doesn’t need to explain the protocol of Samoan culture to other Samoans.

“All the matai understand this basic principle,” he said.

Told that some people in New Zealand have done a usu as a village, Tuilaepa said: “This is not a village here. The village is in Samoa. 

“Keep in mind we have our malae (meeting grounds). We have our malae and our maota where titles belong.”

He then used the title Lolofie as an example.

“Anything to do with this title must be held inside the Maota i Sinoi and that’s where it is blessed. That is true Samoan culture.”

The Prime Minister said this new habit of titles being bestowed outside Samoa – including New Zealand – is a new trend. 

“What’s happened here (in NZ) is the result of something done by a crook from over there (Samoa) who came here and did that,” Tuilaepa said. 

“No they have to take it to Samoa for a title to be blessed and officially recognised. If the village does not carry out a usu, it’s not official and it cannot be registered with the Land and Titles Court.”

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