Family matters not Govt. business: Faumuina Wayne

A Member of Parliament says the Government has no business meddling with family treasures (measina), criticising new laws that would strip a matai title from anyone who has served jail time. 

Speaking during the EFKS TV2 Soalepule weekly programmes, Urban West M.P. Faumuina Wayne Fong says the new law is just one of the signs of Government's attack on the Samoan culture.  

The new amendments are part of the Land and Titles Court Act 2020 that superseded the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) Act 1981, which was repealed.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-thirds of Parliament passed the controversial legislation including the Constitution Amendment Act 2020 and Judicature Act 2020 in December last year. 

The repealed L.T.C. Act 1981, on the removal of matai titles, states that the court on petition by a sa’o (paramount chief) or a suli (heir) may remove a matai title where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 life imprisonment. 

However, the new amendment says the Court, on petition of a sa’o or (heir), may hear and determine whether to remove a Matai Title if the holder of that title has been convicted of a crime and served jail time. 

"You see if the Government themselves are the only ones to approve a matai title, then it is up to them what to do to that matai," said Faumuina.

Faumuina was referring to a previous change by Government that abolished the need for an heir (suli) to sign off on the legitimacy of a matai title (fa'apogai); thereby establishing that the Government-sponsored village representative (sui o le nu'u) was enough to verify the validity of the title bestowment. 

"You see now it is starting with their ability to remove a matai title when you are convicted and sent to prison, and this is because the families no longer play the role of fa'apogai," he said.

"And if this is what they are doing while they are the fa'apogai for all the matai holders of Samoa, then families will be broken. 

"But most importantly, you (Government) have no business with the families' matai titles; the Government should not have such an involvement in families' business because they will not be there forever,” said Faumuina. 

The same sentiments were shared by his fellow M.P., Salega East's Olo Fiti Vaai who said families are well equipped with the knowledge to resolve their own issues. 

"Whether it’s a matai title holder’s imprisonment issue or something else, that is a decision that is up to the families. It is no reason for the Government to stick their nose in family affairs; that is up to the families," he said. 

"Like we've said before, this is the Government's attack on Samoa's culture and traditions. If we are not alert about it, maybe in the next 15-20 years, Samoa’s culture may be no more." 

Prior to it becoming an Act, the L.T.C. Bill 2020 had proposed that a matai title can be removed from its holder if that person 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 (heir) may only be made by the sa’o (paramount chief) with pule (jurisdiction) 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 titles has broadened from those convicted of a crime punishable by 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. 

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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