EXPULSION OF SAMOAN CHIEFS PART OF ANCIENT POWER STRUGGLE

Analysis

By Aeo'ainuu Aleki

Samoa News,

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Sept. 16) - The public notice in last Friday's Samoa News, announcing the banishment of five matais, Fofo I.F. Sunia, Sotoa Savali, Faamausili Pola, Alalamua Filoialii and Atiulagi Pese, from the Tau Village Council of Chiefs again raises the question of who is the real authority in Tau Village.

The public notice was signed the "Faletolu", the name of an important division within the major Village Council and is a significant indication of the decades old power struggle between the Faletolu and Tootoo councils in the traditional Council in the king's (Tui Manu'a) political seat, Tau.

The chief spokesman for the village, Taulealea of Tau insists the Faletolu has the power and authority to banish matais from the Tau Village Council.

"The expelling of matais from the Council by the Faletolu has been a usual affair in the history of the village," Taulealea Moliga told Samoa News, "and it is for the retaining of village order and compliance to custom."

The matais banished include Sotoa, one of the top Alii's from the Afio o Alii ma Usoalii division of the village faalupega, and four others who are from the Tootoo division of the Village Council (Fofo, Atiulagi, Faamausili and Alalamua).

It has become evident to political observers in the last twenty years that the struggle for power within the power packed council has dominated its affairs.

The formal hierarchical structure of Tau puts together a very high powered system of titles including an ancient regime still weaving influence in today's political structure. This is called the Faletolu, which is adamantly hanging onto its authority as the original and initial traditional government in Tau.

The Faletolu became a vital council in the newly installed king's government. It claims an undiminished authority that did not subside in influence when the kingship of Tui Manua Liatama, the first Tui Manua to have set up government at Malaetele, Tau, was accepted by the Faletolu.

Since then, the Faletolu has stayed viable and functional in political and governmental affairs side by side with the newly created council of orators called the Auvaa o Tootoo or Tootoo briefly. The Tootoo's were created to provide certain services to the newly installed king at Malaetele, and their oratorical duties,

By the nature of certain events in the village's recent history, the Faletolu were vigilante in retaining its authority in matters where the boundary of power with the Tootoo council had to be defined.

While the influence of the Tootoos was largely governmental and political as they were created specifically to tend to certain services required for the welfare of the king, the Faletolu, it seemed, retained the authority to safeguard and protect the traditional authority of Tau's or the king's government and village affairs.

So, the councils of the Faletolu as the original power pot of Tau, and Tootoo, the created council when the Tui Manua had been accepted and established as king in Tau continued to function side by side with the Tui Manua as its binding force.

Today, the Faletolu is exercising its traditional authority by ultimately banishing four members of the Tootoo council (Fofo, Atiulagi, Faamausili and Alalamua) and one of the top Alii's in the Afio o Alii ma Usoalii council or the kings court, the Sotoa.

Several events arising from the political structure of the kings political center, Tau, as explained above indicate how strongly the two parties feel about their traditional designations.

Contributing Factors

Some of the factors contributing to this power struggle include the rising influence of Tau's educated generations in the early 1900's, setting up families and living on Tutuila Island for modern advancements while still participating in the traditional affairs of Tau through their titles and other traditional values.

They had sought education since 1904, the year their king, Tui Manua had ceded the eastern islands to the United States.

Since then, bright young Manuans came to Tutuila to further studies and look for opportunities in the modern state of affairs authorized by their ruler. Some were led to further advancements through the church, mainly the London Missionary Society (present day CCCAS and CCCS).

They found it convenient to build homes and own land on Tutuila while others sought opportunities beyond the island shores, to the commercial and educational opportunities of the American dream on the mainland and Hawaii.

Their return to American Samoa consolidated more their roots on Tutuila Island and its modern day governmental and church affairs. The influence of the above forces on their social life, while obvious, did not lessen their involvement in the social fibers of their Manua way of life. Accordingly, they continued to live their lives on Tutuila as Tutuila born but Manua diehards, influencing the territorial elections in modern government, the CCCAS church affairs which is their main religion and other activities where they congregate generally as a people. (See separate story in later Samoa News issue)

While many were Tutuila born, they were required by the constitution to keep contact with the traditional authorities for their modern political activities in Manua, including voting, US benefit entitlements and other governmental affairs.

This included church participation, where the Manua church district divisions required titleholders holding church positions to maintain contact with Manua for legitimizing their official roles in government and church affairs.

Gradually, the views of the Tutuila based Manuans became polarized and a certain type of Manuan was gravitating toward this group. These are mainly the US mainland educated Manuans who have returned to serve their families in Manua, but have found instead that they had to make a living on Tutuila Island for obvious reasons.

While many of them took up titles and became very effective leaders in the family and village back in the east, they all shared one common element. That is, they were required to earn income to pay for their Manua participation and at the same time raising families and even participating in the affairs of their Tutuila extended families.

It is conjectured that the Tutuila based Manuans absorbed values through their living apart from the Manua villages and social settings, such that they have influenced strongly the present crisis. Sources believe these forces have been at the base of the decades old friction between the Faletolu and Tootoo.

Taulealea told Samoa News that the village council is determined to have the affairs of the council reaffirmed for younger generations. "We want to have the council's affairs preserved so younger generations will have no doubt who they are and where they stand in village affairs," he said.

On closer examination, all the Tootoo members affected -Fofo, Atiulagi, Faamausili and Alalamua fall into the category described above. Fofo is retired and is working on publishing his books as well as rendering consultation services to government. Atiulagi is a judge with the High Court. Alalamua is a federal grant program director and Faamausili, a former federal grant program director is now senator from Tau village. Sotoa is currently the Secretary of Samoan Affairs and is a strong force in matters involving the role of the culture and traditions in governmental and political affairs. They have all attained college and university degrees from the US mainland and have all established families on Tutuila for the reasons discussed above.

It is no secret, the present power struggle within Tau is seen as a struggle between the educated, politically-in crowd from Tau, and the traditional diehards.

The latter group's membership are the not so vocal in modern government matais but who are staunch keepers of the traditional authority in the village's affairs. Hence, their exercising of their jealously preserved Faletolu authority, the base of their power in modern government as against the politically literate Tootoo dominating the cabinet's representation from Tau.

September 24, 2003

Samoa News: www.samoanews.com 

 

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