M.P. defends "pasese" money during L.T.C. bills consultation

A Member of a Special Parliamentary Committee holding public consultations over three bills proposing key changes to the judiciary has defended the practise of giving money to village delegations they are meeting with saying it is part of Samoan culture.

Member of Parliament, Sulamanaia Tauili’ili Tuivasa, confirmed that the Committee has been presenting "pasese" (fares) to village delegations after their meetings. 

But suggestions that the Committee is coercing villages to support the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020; Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020 because of the pasese money were strongly denied by the Committee member. Sulamanaia also rubbished claims that the practise was a conflict of interest.

“Giving the respective villages the pasese is part of our culture,” Sulamanaia said, adding the pasese is not Government funds.

“These funds come directly from our pockets," he said. "Each member [of the Committee] gives what they can give; so we are giving from the heart."

The Special Committee is currently soliciting public opinion on the three bills that is proposing to establish the Land and Titles Court as an independent Court, among other changes to the Constitution. The bills have been through their second reading in Parliament.

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, confirmed that a special request was given to Cabinet for funds specifically for pasese but to date that request is pending.  

But he also confirmed on Wednesday that money was given out in Savai'i during the consultations there. 

“Isn’t that part of our culture and tradition that we value in our normal day life?" he asked. "For instance when the Committee was in Savai'i, few villages (Vaisala, Asau, Neiafu, Sagone etc..) performed our usual culture and tradition in welcoming guests “usu fa'aaloalo.

“As our norm, we pay our respect in giving/offering in return money for the usu faaaloalo of Village Councils. The same incident took place yesterday for the Vaimauga District.” 

Tiatia then pointed to Standing Order provision which allows Committees to pay allowances to Witnesses appearing before Committees.   

“(7)  The rate of allowance to be paid for the expenses of any person appearing as a witness before a Parliamentary committee shall be the same as would be payable to such person if he were a witness attending a Court of Law.”

For Sulamanaia, he told the Samoa Observer the pasese is a must.

 “Giving the pasese is part of the culture and it is a sign of respect accorded between High Chiefs and most especially when Church Ministers are present," he said.

“The bills we are discussing at hand, deals with the culture therefore the witnesses that are attending are High Chiefs and therefore we cannot deviate from doing it the Samoan way."

He added that in Savai'i they were greeted with an ava ceremony in line with the normal customary prior to meetings.

“These Chiefs bring with them the concerns and wishes of their respective villages and we [in the Committee] are also chiefs and therefore when we meet it is customary to give them pasese.”

According to Sulamanaia when their village of Letogo appeared before the Committee, he was behooved to give them a pasese.

“Again, I give what I can give because it is from one chief to another," he said. "We cannot separate our customs because we are sitting on the Committee, at the end of the day, we are chiefs from our respective constituencies.”  

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