New Zealand Election Candidate Using Unregistered Matai Title

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While illegal in Samoa, misuse in NZ beyond jurisdiction

By Lanuola Tupufia

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Sept. 13, 2014) – The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Masinalupe Tusipa Masinalupe, re-confirmed yesterday that a matai title being used by a candidate in the New Zealand election is not registered in Samoa.

However, the C.E.O was also quick to point out that there is nothing Samoa can do about it.

The title in question is the Misa that’s been used by National Party candidate, Misa Fia Turner.

Contacted for a comment yesterday, Masinalupe said the title has not been registered. As such, he said the use of the title Misa by candidate Fia Turner therefore was illegal.

"Our records show that she (Misa Fia Turner) hasn’t registered her matai," said Masinalupe.

"Under our legislations, it is illegal to use a matai title that hasn’t been registered. You could be charged for that."

But in this particular case, there is a snag. "If someone uses it in New Zealand, it’s different," he said. Asked to elaborate, Masinalupe reminded that Samoa has no jurisdiction over what happens in New Zealand. He said the Samoan government cannot stop someone in New Zealand from using an unregistered title.

In section 21 of the Land and Titles Act 1981 under a sub-clause called "Wrongful user an offence" it states that "a person other than the rightful holder who uses a matai name or title, or permits himself or herself to be addressed by a matai name or title, or otherwise acts as the holder of a matai or title, commits an offence and on conviction is liable to imprisonment for 12 months."

In his view, Masinalupe said it is common for families in Samoa to refer to titles that identifies their roots and families. For example, he said the title Masina is used and referred to by his relatives to show who their family is when they attend fa’alavelave and other occasions.

"That is okay because it’s used in a way that points out to your identity and where you’re from," he said. "But it would be wrong to say that you earn a title and use it in that intent when it’s not registered."

The matter in relation to Ms. Fia Turner’s Misa title was raised by Mangere’s Labour M.P, Su’a William Sio, who argued that the woman candidate should not be using the title.

"If National’s candidate is using a title she has not had, that is an affront to the people of Samoa and the Samoan community in New Zealand," Su’a said.

Su’a then called on the National Party to investigate the discrepancy between Ms. Turner’s title and the view of the Samoan government.

Asked for a comment, Misa Fia said the title was passed down to her from her father and that it was the family’s business, not anybody else’s.

She also said she would not be following it up with officials in Samoa because it was none of their business, TV3 reported. The title Misa comes from Falelatai.

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