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Age requirement, title removal process part of new law

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, March 13, 2012) – The Land and Titles Amendment Act 2012 that prevents anyone under the age of 25 from becoming a matai (chief) was passed in Parliament. The Act prohibits people under 25 from being given a title. There are exceptions for those who are over 21-years-old.

This depends on the satisfaction of cultural requirements and an application to the Land and Titles Court. In an interview with the Samoa Observer outside of Parliament, Associate Minister of Police, Prison and Fire Services, Tuisa Tasi Patea, said the Act also has jurisdiction in taking a matai title away from someone.

Tuisa said anyone who is heir to a certain title, who does not feel that their high chief is making appropriate decisions, can apply to have the chief’s title removed.

"The heir can do so if he feels that the matai is affected by the law and is bringing shame to the family and their name. In the olden days, a matai can do whatever he wants because he knows that the title won’t be stripped off him, but now family members have the rights to question them."

In parliament, Tautua whip Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi said the Act should sympathize with people who are remorseful for their actions.

He said it’s one load to do the time for the crime, but to have the title stripped off them does not acknowledge the punishments they have already endured.

Tautua Leader Palusalue Fa’apo II and MP Lepale Niko Palamo also questioned the procedures of the practice.

Palusalue said it is unjust to prohibit those under 25 who might be the only person who is providing for the family to be given the title.

He fears that the court will overlook the rights of individuals and rely only on what is stated in the Act, disregarding the 21 year-old hard worker.

Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo clarified that before any conclusion is drawn to stop someone who is 21 from becoming a matai, the court does its investigation.

He said when the family applies for a person over 21 to be given a title they will look into it if the extended family has agreed to it and if the person also fulfills his cultural obligations to become a matai.

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