Samoa Observer letter - July 17, 2016
With Le Tagaloa Pita’s case still fresh on our minds, the monotaga issue is still alive. The horse is not dead yet. From the complexity and intricacy of the whole enigma, the monotaga will continue to be scrutinized legally for a while.
I predict that it will continue to be revised until the courts and the present government are satisfied and have accomplished their goal - whatever that might be. By such time, the cultural practice and legal definition will have been at their greatest odds, with tradition and culture being the likely losers.
Besides the fact that paramount chiefs are exempt from rendering a traditional monotaga, as most Samoans understand it, here is a couple of other aspects that would likely complicate the issue further.
Multiple Matai Titles.
There are individuals with multiple matai titles. Ideally, at least in the socio-cultural sense, they should render a monotaga to every village of their different titles. In reality, however, I doubt that is the case. Are these monitored and enforced in any way?
It can be quite arbitrary, at least until election time when that one lucky village that bestowed the “election title” gets the required mandatory monotaga. Other villages will have to wait their turn, if ever. Divided loyalty can also be an issue with these particular matais. Now, if that is not enough to create an election conundrum, then consider this next one - an obvious extension of the above issue.
It has to do with a matai with multiple titles from villages within the same electoral district. I understand that the law looks only at the monotaga to the village of the title under which a candidate is running. This scenario may be improbable but not impossible.
Say that villages A, B and C are all in the same electoral district. Candidate X has titles from villages B and C and he runs under his/her title from village B. His monotaga, to village B only, is therefore legally mandatory, and would be scrutinized, checked and considered.
As a result, village C may or may not receive a monotaga from Candidate X at all.
It will not be recommended or mandated under the law. In that case, village C should have the right to file a complaint or sue the candidate and/or government on grounds of bias, favoritism and discrimination.
If a monotaga is required by law from a matai to the so-called “election title” village, then it should also be required for all other villages that bestowed his other titles. Otherwise a monotaga in one village is not the same in another, hence undermining the consistency and uniformity the present law tries to accomplish across the board, as any law would.
Moreover, the mandatory monotaga by Candidate X to village B should therefore be equally binding on village C, being from the same electoral district, and from the fact that Candidate X is the representative for both villages.
In this scenario, the principle of true and fair representation is at issue. The candidate is a representative (MP) for a district not a village. Hence, if the monotaga has any efficacy or legal merits, and be allowed to stand as a requirement for a candidate to run in the elections, it should be rendered to the district - not the village.
The monotaga is a malleable beast. If you subdue it by severing one of its parts, it regenerates another.
Ma le fa’aaloalo lava,