Move to reopen registration of matai titles resurfaces
House Vice Speaker Talia Fa’afetai ‘Iaulualo and Rep. Talaimatai Elisara Sua are sponsoring a bill, that if enacted into law, will reopen the matai title registration for a period of six months next year.
Current statute states that every matai in American Samoa must, prior to Jan. 1, 1969, register his title and designated name with the Territorial Registrar and any matai title not registered by Jan. 1, 1969 may not be registered.
But under the amendment proposed in the House bill, which was introduced in the House during Saturday’s session, the registration period will be reopened.
“... matai in American Samoa must register his title and designated name with the Territorial Registrar between Jan. 1, 2014 and June 30, 2014, after which date no titles may be registered,” the amendment states. “Titles registered prior to Jan. 1, 1969 need not be re-registered.”
Similar amendments have been proposed in the past, including one in 2011 - also sponsored by Tali - but never made it out of the committee and therefore were automatically defeated when a legislative session ended without action.
The push to reopen registration is based on the fact that several matai titles currently vacant or being used today were not registered by the January 1969 deadline. More than six years ago, some traditional leaders were against such an amendment, arguing before the Fono that re-opening the registration period will allow new chiefly titles that were never part of family clans to be registered.
(For clarity, the amendment is specifically focused on matai titles that have never been legally registered, not on matai titles already legally registered, nor on holders of these titles.)