Jail term can lead to removal of matai title

A matai title holder who has served jail time regardless of how long they were behind bars could face the consequence of having his or her title stripped under new laws. 

The new amendments are part of the Land and Titles Court Act 2020 that superseded the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) Act 1981 which was repealed. 

More than two-third of parliament passed the controversial legislation including Constitution Amendment Act 2020 and Judicature Act 2020 in December last year.

The repealed L.T.C. Act 1981 on the removal of matai title states that the court on petition by a sa’o (paramount chief) or a suli (heir) may remove a matai title where the holder of that title has acted in a manner that brings disrepute to the family, village or community of the matai. 

In addition, a matai holder could lose their title if they failed to properly perform the duties of a matai or has been convicted of a serious crime that is punishable by imprisonment for life. 

Prior to the passing of the Act, the L.T.C. Bill 2020 had proposed that a matai title can be removed if he or she has been convicted of a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for seven years or more. 

Furthermore, it also noted that a petition to remove a matai title from a suli may only be made by the sa’o with pule over that matai title on the consensus of the suli. 

In terms of the removal of a matai sa’o title, this can be done by the consensus of the suli. Following the passing of the legislation, the scope of removing matai title has broadened from those serving life imprisonment to serving an imprisonment term.

It cannot be confirmed when the new laws that were assented by the Head of State will become effective.

A senior matai of the village of Apia, Leapai Siaosi Taualai was the most recent case where a paramount chiefly title, Tuiletufuga was stripped of his authority to the title. 

The Land and Titles Court handed down the decision last year after it determined and concluded that the senior matai failed to properly perform his duties as a matai. 

A petition from several members of the Tuiletufuga family alleged the matai misused funds from a primary school that he was the President of bringing disrepute to the family and village.

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