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By Tootoo Aleki

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (February 15, 2000 – Samoa News)---Representative S.E. Sala told the Samoa News that he is serious about his proposed legislation that will eliminate the present matai title law and let families have sole authority to award their titles.

"So much heartache and hurt has been done to many families because of the law as it stands.

"The decisions from the courts have caused deep divisions within families because it is not a win-win situation. The numerous losers are left to harbor sour thoughts for years, and I think this is the time to provide release for those pent-up emotions.

"There are mechanisms in the culture to provide alternatives that will in the end result in consensus.

"Samoan government decisions have been by consultation and discussion. So has succession to titles, which is always by discussion, the ingredient of consensus.

"There is the time-honored custom of moe le toa, a great cultural tool for unlocking deadlocked situations. Families will no doubt resort to such cultural practices if they know they are the ones who have to make the final decision.

"This custom cannot work well today, because the families know deep down, that they are not the ones who get to make the final decision, and that their consensus is always subject to be challenged in court, as the law says.

"I will explain to my colleagues about the value of the bill to the culture and the customs of the land, as well as to retaining of the dignity of their families."

The Ituau faipule, who is a member of the strong Falevalu echelon in the Ituau Government, recited a list of catastrophes that he says have been at least partially due to court title succession decisions. Such tragedies include premature death, disunity among traditional divisions of noted families, and even bloodshed resulting in loss of life.

He said the bill may seem strange or radical to some, because too many people now have little faith in their ability to solve problems, including their family title problems.

"We need to restore to our people and the culture, confidence in ourselves and our God-given system. For more than a hundred years, our people have been subjected to a foreign system which robbed us of our confidence in ourselves and our ability to develop ourselves, and settle our own problems," he concluded.

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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