P.M. criticises Fiame over s'ao laws

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi says new laws making it compulsory for matai sa'o to reside in Samoa have been long discussed, contradicting critics who say the Government rammed the changes through Parliament. 

“This specific issue was one of the concerns raised by the public during the Special Inquiry Committee on the Lands and Titles Court in 2016,” Tuilaepa said of the new laws. 

The Prime Minister was responding to comments made by former Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa regarding the new amendments to the Lands and Titles Act which will prohibit non-residents from being awarded s’ao titles. 

“You will not be eligible to hold that kind of title [...] if you don’t reside in Samoa,” the M.P. said. 

Fiame said the legislation’s new provisions were ambiguous, particularly whether the requirement for family paramount chiefs to reside on island would be applied retrospectively. 

“We have many matai of that status of title residing outside Samoa,” the independent M.P. from Lotofaga said. 

“The most obvious question is [if] there [is] a requirement now for those people to come back to Samoa - [is] the law going to be retrospective?”

The M.P. further argued that the consultation relating to provisions relating to matai titles - particularly in their new form was plainly inadequate. 

“It was quite interesting in terms of the original proposal to limit the sa’o titles to five; it came out of the blue,” she said. 

However, the Prime Minister said the new amendments to the laws (and the Constitution) followed concerns and submissions, raised by members of the public starting over the past five years. 

“It is apparent that Fiame did not read the report and also did not read the report from the 1960s Constitutional Convention; that is why she does not understand,” he said. 

He referenced the Special Inquiry Committee on the Lands and Titles Court in 2016 under recommendation 22: of the Family High Chief (Sa’o). 

“Many witnesses to the committee were dismayed at the removal of sa’o titles held by their families. Following domestic disputes, the rightful heirs to the titles consented to have the titles removed,” the Special Inquiry Committee report says. 

“Another witness submitted that it has been forty years since the sa’o of their family has not returned to their village nor has he rendered any service to the village. 

“Many attempts beseeching the sa’os approval to have a title bestowal ceremony was denied maintaining his sole authority as Sa’o. 

“It has been more than 20 years since one family has tried to petition a case against their Sa’o.”

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