28 Jan 2008

Questions in American Samoa raised over removing hereditary right as factor for vacant matai titles

11:24 am on 28 January 2008

Traditional leaders and a judge in American Samoa have questioned a senate bill which would remove hereditary right as one of the criteria for deciding successors to vacant matai titles.

Testifying at a Senate hearing on the issue, the Secretary of Samoan Affairs Mauga Tasi Asuega, said removing the blood line criteria would mean that claimants who have the resources but without any ties to the title can easily influence families to select them as the title holder.

Mauga said this would be detrimental to Samoan traditions and families would be dictated to by those who may not have the best interests of he family at heart.

Associate Judge Logoai Siaki, also felt that the current law was sufficient.

But he suggested that the Senate introduce a bill which would require families to decide their own title holders instead of having the courts make the decision.

He said many families are not happy with decisions made by the Lands and Titles Court, and said if the Fono passed a bill that would put the onus on families to decide successors to vacant titles, the families would eventually come to a consensus.