P.M. defends matai sa'o limits

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has defended a Government initiative limiting the bestowal of family paramount chief titles (matai sa’o) only to Samoan residents.

Speaking on his programme last week, Tuilaepa again emphasised the ban on overseas title holders would not apply retrospectively.

He also repeated criticism of his political opponents after last week saying the Faatuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party is “brainwashing” the public and being “better liars than satan”.

Three laws recently passed by the Parliament to overhaul the legal system originally included a proposal to cap the number of matai sa’o titles that could be bestowed per family to five. 

But the final version of the laws, passed on 15 December, while removing the cap, instead allows only for people who reside in Samoa to receive such titles. 

Last week, the independent M.P. for Lotofaga and former Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa said the changes had been suddenly inserted into the laws “out of the blue” without public consultation. 

The leader of the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, La'auli Leautea Schmidt, said the provision reflected Government overreach and interference in family matters.  

Tuilaepa said the reason for the limits was that most families handing out paramount chief titles were doing so to relatives residing overseas for monetary reasons but undermining family affairs. 

“This is what spurred the thought that if there is a circumstance where an urgent decision needs to be made in the family, the local matai sa’o will not be able to do anything because the rest of the matai sa’o overseas have not agreed on it; it could be someone who is only 18-years-old,” he said.

“That is what’s happening now, some have not yet matured and yet families have forced them to be conferred a title because of the money that flows [into families’ hands] from overseas.”

Tuilaepa said this reason was part of the reason the original bills were drafted to limit the number of matai sa’o to five. He said that recommendation followed a 2016 Special Parliamentary Inquiry Committee into the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.).  

The committee report on the L.T.C. made a recommendation of restricting matai sa’o to residing in their village, and limiting five sa’o per family too. 

“It is quintessential for an elected sa’o to reside within the village and family the title belongs to,” the report stated. 

The Prime Minister said public consultation on the legislation had influenced the Government’s decision to impose the prohibition on overseas matai sa’o. 

“When the bills were taken out to the public, they heard changed opinions from the same people who had come before, saying maybe it is better to limit the honor to locals only,” he said.

“They need to be here because they have to be present every day, because a matai sa’o deals with the decision making role of families, every single day. 

“So when something arises, the family cannot decide on something substantial before [their] overseas matai sa’o agrees.

La’auli said the new provision on family titles amounted to “riding over borders that they shouldn’t.”

Tuilaepa said it was no surprise that La’auli and Fiame were attempting to mislead the public and alleged they were infamous “liars”.

Taking a shot at the F.A.S.T. Tuilaepa claimed Laauli has been listed as the first in the history books of Samoa to have lied while taking an oath before the Speaker of the House.

In September, Gagaifomauga No. 3 Member of Parliament, La’auli was asked to take his oath twice after the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi, objected to the Member of Parliament’s use of the “Laaulialemalietoa” title.

“He was made to take oath twice, to take out the lie and say his true name. This boy insists on using Malietoa because he wants to be a Malietoa; it’s a big deal, he is a wanna-be Malietoa,” the Prime Minister said. 

Tuilaepa objected to claims by La’auli that the Government had been neglecting constructing infrastructure in Savai’i.

He said the Government was overseeing several significant developments on the big island, including the new Salelologa township.

“There is a big market there with many sellers and businesses; maybe up to now, this person who was a Speaker of the House still does not know; meaning he is blind to all of it including the nice roads in Savaii,” he said.

The Prime Minister also referred to the opening of a hospital in Laauli’s constituency seven years ago and several other projects commissioned in Savai’i. He said: “Maybe Laauli has forgotten.

“There’s also the stretch from Fusi to Mali’oli’o, the Mali’oli’o bridge as well which was supposed to be completed 100 years ago due to the strong currents, and while there was a small cement walkway, many had lost their lives trying to cross.

“And maybe La’auli has crossed over it many times but still does not see it as something new. What shocks me is that they would lie like that, he is famous for lying.

“The reason he lies is probably because he thinks [the party] can just lie to the people, that’s why they go into the villages but I will use this platform with [TV3] and 2AP; they think they have succeeded but no that is not right.

“I will correct all of it and I want to correct this little one (La’auli) who was in my Cabinet, asking me what to do for this and that together with Fiame; I will continue to correct them.”

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