A new MĀLIETOA
His Highness Mālietoa Tanumāfili II became the first Co-Head of State of the Independent State of Sāmoa in 1962, along with His Highness Tupua Tamasese Meaʻole.
The late Mālietoa passed away in 2007 and the title has been vacant for more than 10 years. [Note, in the traditional Samoan system of governance (faʻamatai), no one is born as a matai (a titled person or ‘chiefʻ); ʻchiefs’ are elected by their families and formally recognized by their nuʻu (village). When one becomes a matai, one is bestowed the title of a chief and takes this title as a personal name. This title is passed down from generation to generation, but there is no mandated line of succession as it is the family that owns the title that elects from among their own suli (heirs) to become their matai based on several factors.] Because the Mālietoa family is so large, there are several branches and, in the past, when no clear title holder could be determined, various parties would go to war and the winning party would become the mālō (ruling party). After the introduction of western court systems, wars became discouraged and eventually obsolete and the courts determined who would become the next titleholder. This did not mean that there would be no challenges or resistance to court decisions.
In December 2017, the Land and Titles Court ruled in favor of Papāliʻi Faʻamausili Mōlī, the son of the late Mālietoa, after the three recognized branches of the family, Mālietoa Talavou, Mālietoa Natuitasina, and Mālietoa Mōlī came to a compromise to bestow the title on Papāliʻi Faʻamausili (of the Mōlī clan) and then to rotate the title to the Natuitasina and then the Talavou branches. There were still objections by different factions of the family and court challenges are likely to continue.
A court order was put in place to prevent the bestowal of the pāpā title Gatoʻaitele on the newly installed Mālietoa.
Photo Credit: Talamua Media (see link: www.talamua.com)
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