SAMOAN MATAI BANNED FROM AFEGA VILLAGE

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Editor’s Note: A Samoan "matai" is a village leader
or chief.

By Savea Sano Malifa

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Aug. 7) - Another matai of Afega
has been banned from the village for life by the matai council.

Fata Lole, his wife and their five children, left to live with
his wife’s family at Faleasi’u.

He is one of many matai and village residents booted out for
disobeying one council rule or another.

An untitled man (taule’ale’a) was also shown the way out
during Monday’s meeting of the village’s matai council.

He was punished because the matai of his family did not turn up
to the council meeting. He was ordered to be present at the next meeting (first
Monday of September) or he would be kicked out too.

Fata Lole had been found guilty of the crime of getting his son
to prepare an area in the family’s plot of land for a taro patch.

Fata had told another man who worked on the same plot that he
wanted to have his own taro patch there. This was agreed to.

So Fata sent his young son to clear the land. The next thing
Fata heard was that the man who had agreed to have his taro patch on the land,
had now objected.

He claimed his own plants had been chopped down by Fata’s son.
So he took the matter to the matai council who sent its "crime
committee" over to investigate.

The committee returned with the confirmation that plants had
indeed been destroyed, and Fata Lole was brought before the council for
questioning. This was on 7 July 2003.

After an exchange of questions and answers, and Fata Lole had
delivered a lengthy explanation, the council agreed to stay its ruling.

This followed a request that the matter be delayed because
another matai, Maulolo Fa’aui, who was directly involved, was in Honolulu at
the time.

Both Fata Lole and Maulolo Fa'aui are from the same family. They
share a family land in the village where they live, and also the plot inland
where Fata Lole wanted to plant a taro patch.

When the dispute over the taro patch arose, Maulolo Fa’aui had
gone to Honolulu seeking medical assistance. Contacted on the phone, he
instructed that the matter be handed over to the matai council.

When he was told by the Pulenu’u (mayor), Leu Vaetolu, that
the council had delayed its ruling until his return, he reportedly told the
mayor not to wait for him.

He instructed instead to have the matter dealt with immediately.
So during its monthly meeting on Monday, the council ruled against Fata Lole and
ostracized him.

The village’s two Tu’ua (titular heads) - Fata Pemila and
Maulolo Fa’avevela - along with other matai leaders would not be dissuaded
when they were asked to reconsider.

Reminded that not only was Fata Lole not the one who personally
chopped down the plants in question, but that the plot itself belonged to his
family of which he was a matai, they would not listen.

They maintained that chopping down plants that were not yours
was taboo, and the penalty was ostracism.

And to prove they were not fooling around, Fata Pemila and
Maulolo Fa’avevela themselves led the delegations to Fata Lole’s family and
that of the non-matai who was also ostracized, to tell them personally that they
were to leave and look for places elsewhere to live.

Early this year, three couples from a family in Afega were also
ostracised by the matai council. Their crime? One of them chopped down a plant
on the boundary.

This followed a dispute in which the wife of a matai allegedly
attacked a young mother clutching to her child. It’s understood that one of
the ostracized couples has taken legal action against the matai in question and
his wife.

Ostracism is nothing new in Afega. The matai council believes it
is empowered by the Village Fono Act to punish anyone who disobeys its orders.

"The law is on our side," Fata Pemila told the
council. "Everyone who disobeys is punished."

And so they have been. Many are banned from the village for
crimes such as failure to pay fines and donations to the school building,
disobeying the village curfew, for long hair and beards, girls wearing shorts,
among others.

But perhaps the most serious punishment meted out so far was the
banning of cripple Taliaoa Fata Tamasaga just before the 2002 general elections.
He was kicked out over an election voting dispute, and went on to challenge the
matai council in court.

On the night of the 2002 elections, his house was burned to the
ground; he and two toddlers died in the blaze. Although the Police started an
investigation into the fatal fire, it is not clear what has become to it.

August 13, 2003

Samoa Observer: www.samoaobserver.ws/

 

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