Govt. to amend Electoral law on monotaga

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has promised to amend the Electoral Act to provide more clarity on the definition of monotaga to avoid misunderstanding in the future.

The Prime Minister made the announcement on Wednesday evening during his media programme, where he also took an unprovoked jab at Judges of the Supreme Court who presided in 20 election petitions lodged and decided upon last week.

The Prime Minister said the election petition cases in the Supreme Court revealed “misunderstanding” of the monotaga.

“And in terms of the cases, no matter the legal arguments presented in Court, if the judge understands the true intention of what the monotaga is all about, they should make their decisions based on that,” Tuilaepa said.

“But just because the lawyer is wrong does not necessarily mean their decision should follow suit. But then again if the judge [who is a chief] does not render any monotaga, how could [the judge] understand the Samoan culture and tradition?”

The Prime Minister did not name anyone in particular. He also did not make reference to any particular case.

But his comments come on the back of a large number of election petition cases lodged in the Supreme Court recently that questioned the veracity of the monotaga rendered by candidates to village councils.

Speaking during his weekly programme TV3, Tuilaepa said the proposed amendments will provide a clear definition of monotaga. 

“The [amendments] will thoroughly define what the monotaga means. And this is the service conducted by any chief once they are [bestowed the title] up until one’s death,” he said.

“The service/monotaga does not limit to the contributions in terms of finances, food, fine mats etc., but it also applies to your contribution in the Village Council during the meetings where important matters are being discussed."

The Prime Minister added that playing a role in the village to steer youth away from trouble is one vital aspect of any chief’s contribution to the village.

He then made reference to the controversial Land and Titles Court Bills (L.T.C.) that is currently before the Parliament, saying that the proposed legislation will complement and support the role of the chiefs at the village level.

“The [minute] that Samoa walks away from its chiefly system, that will be the start of bad things happening in the village," he said. "Hence the importance of the [Lands and Titles] Bills to ensure the Samoan culture and tradition are intact, since the beginning and when Christianity reached our shores."

The Prime Minister said he believes Samoa thus far has been saved by the “Grace of God”, given the power of evening prayers in villages, and this has come about as a result of strict regulations enforced by village councils.

“There is a chance of a huge revamping of the law to enforce the governance of the village councils in the respective villages. Another reason there are issues about monotaga has to do with internal village issues between the chiefs,” he said.

“There are a number of chiefs that do not render monotaga in the villages. As soon as their title bestowment is concluded, they don’t return to serve the village and so we’re looking at a number of changes to the [Village Act].

“Also there are a title bestowment conducted overseas, but in reality if the customary process is not being followed such as the usu ole nu’u, the title shouldn’t be allowed to register with the Lands and Titles.

“Enforcing of the monotaga in the villages upholds the integrity of the village councils in the respective villages and will also pave the way for the chiefs to work together and alongside each other.

“Many people are eager to become chiefs and afterwards they become government officials and yet do not serve the village nor participate in the village councils.”

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