FALEOMAVAEGA: BLOOD QUANTUM ‘INSULTING’ TO MATAIS

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Dec. 18) - Congressman Faleomavaega Eni believes there are "so many flaws" in the current law dealing with matai [chiefly] titles and it should be revamped because one provision is even "insulting."

Faleomavaega said he has been calling on past legislative sessions to take a much closer look at current statutes and make necessary amendments, especially in the blood quantum criteria but no action has been taken.

"In my own experience the way our matai title issues are being decided, there are so many flaws right now, with the whole advent of our Samoan title cases. It's a shame," he said. "Let me give you one issue - where in the world did we come up with this idea that I have 25% blood going into the case; that if I win the case tomorrow, all of a sudden I'm 100%? This is a real serious flaw in the current matai title case situation that we have.To me it is so insulting to the Samoan culture to come up with this measuring of blood quantum and a serious factor among the four criteria to decide whether or not you should entitle to serve as a matai of that family.

"Here is the unfairness of the current criteria. You may have all your faletama (faction) of the four branches, then one branch continues to hold the title for 50 years, while the other three branches all they do is continue to serve. But does that make their entitlement any less than the fact that they are still serving the family except for this one particular branch has the title. Because this is how, insulting this current system is right now."

Asked as to what he recommends, Faleomavaega said, "We should change the criteria. This blood quantum thing - should not be measured in terms of how much quantum you have in blood. To me its insulting. As long as the branches of the family all agree in principal that you are a blood member, then the criteria of blood should be something the families know themselves who really is a blood member - whether your ancestors go back 100 years - they all know you are, then talk about service, then talk about qualification, then talk about other issues that really whether or not the candidate has the ability to serve as a matai."

"The blood quantum is the most insulting aspect of our matai qualification," he said adding that neighboring Samoa has a better system.

"You go to Samoa, as long as the branch of the family know you are a blood member of the family, you are entitled to have a say in the process," he continued. "But the situation we have here in American Samoa, is that you may not have one ounce of blood and you are going to go up there, on your own - despite what the general consensus of the family is - you might just win the title and yet having no blood quantum. That is so unfair."

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