Saturday, August 12, 2006

Old versus new (cont.)

One consequence of Su’a’s court submission has been his ostracising from the village of Lano. Unhappy that he continued with his petition against Mulitalo, Lano matai decided to banish him “for the good of the village”. This decision is not unusual or rare. I’ve seen reports of three such banishment orders since I’ve been here. What is interesting about this case however is the court’s response. The Observer reports that Justice Pierre Slicer told the Lano pulenu’u, Malaeulu Amoni, that “Lano was not more powerful than the Legislative Assembly, the Constitution, the Electoral Act, the Head of State, or the Supreme Court.” As such, the ostracism of Su’a was “unlawful conduct.” Justice Slicer, along with Justice Tom Shepherdson (both judges from New Zealand Australia), ordered the matai of Lano to lift the ostracism resolution or “be jailed by us for contempt of court.” A well-established and understood mechanism of the fa’asamoa has been overruled by Samoa’s adopted legal system.

“K.T” asked in Wednesday’s Observer,

Who are these judges to raise havoc about the cultural values our people have cherished for so long?

Despite the hardships, our matai system has never failed to impose peace and unity amongst our people. Our forefathers must be turning in their graves and we need to solidify their profound wish i.e. Tofia e le Atua Samoa ina ia pulea e matai. (God chose Samoa to be governed by matais).

Such forceful instructions levelled at the Lano village mayor is an unprecedented call to all other village mayors that not following the norms of the Westminster model could be reason to waive and abandon their cultural prowess in this traditional culture that has survived and had persevered for centuries.

What we have guarded with life is suddenly declared illegal…and this court decision is seen as rather hostile towards the fa’asamoa and coming from a judge, I feel it is simply inappropriate.

This is not an uncommon feeling. A vox pop in Thursday's newspaper was dominated by similar sentiment. There is a very real need to find ways of satisfying both the traditional and modern systems of power and regulation in Samoa. Whilst it might prove unpopular from time to time, I suspect it is going to be legal cases such as the one between Su'a and Mulitalo, where legal interpretations of the fa'asamoa end up being defined, that will be the major drivers for this process.

No comments: