SOTOA OPPOSED TO BAN ON EXPORT OF AMERICAN SAMOA’S FINE MATS

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By Tootoo Aleki

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (February 10, 2000 – Samoa News)---The Senate is poised to hold another set of debates about whether to ban the practice of taking fine mats off island. (The bill does allow senior family matai to take special mats, ‘au‘afa, off-island.)

A similar bill was passed in the Senate in the last regular session, but was defeated in the House. Now, Senator Matautia Tuiafono is trying again.

Despite previous Senate approval, the proposal does not have the support of all ranking chiefs.

Secretary of Samoan Affairs Sotoa Savali explained to the Senate yesterday why he opposes the measure.

Sotoa reveres the cultural role of the fine mat, as does Matautia, but the two men disagree about how to keep the custom strong.

"Fine mats have to be used," Sotoa said, "because they are still alive in the people's thoughts and values. For that, I support having them used in weddings and all matters where people get together.

"I think it is not according to our duty as family leaders if we take only our ‘au‘afa for faalavelave, because the families expect more from us.

"People in the States need fine mats when they have faalavelave. How can we expect them to be supplied with the valued cultural item by banning its exportation?"

Sotoa also told the Committee of the Whole, chaired by Senator Faiivae Galea‘i, that a complication may lie in the normal use of fine mats during fundraising trips to Samoan communities in the States and Hawai‘i.

He proposed an alternative approach to the problem of the loss of fine mats to overseas locations. The alternative is in line with his desire to allow the culture to be free of legislative intervention.

"I would support having this measure altered to become a resolution from the two Fono chambers, and we, at Samoan Affairs, could use that to instigate discussion with the district governors on the concerns of the Fono," he concluded.

He concluded by saying that he wants to leave cultural and family matters to the community leaders to handle, rather than to have legislation enacted into law that could have a drastic effect on the social customs of the people.

The Committee resolved to return the bill to the full Senate without a committee recommendation.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to samoanews@samoatelco.com. For additional reports from the Samoa News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa News.

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