USP Theses Collection


close this section of the library Land tenure -- Law and legislation -- Samoa

View the PDF document O Tiafau o le malae o le fa'autugatagi a Samoa : a study of the impact of the land and titles court's decisions over customary land and family titles
Author: Potogi, Telea Kamu Tapuai
Institution: University of the South Pacific.
Award: M.A.
Subject: Samoa. Land and Titles Court, Land tenure -- Law and legislation -- Samoa, Customary law -- Samoa
Date: 2014
Call No.: Pac KWW 253 .2 .A28 P68 2014
BRN: 1200246
Copyright:Under 10% of this thesis may be copied without the authors written permission

Abstract: The Land and Titles Act of 1981 is the single most important instrument governing the operation of the customary and family titles court of Samoa. A better understanding of the operation of the Court according to the Act is important because land, apart from the sea, is the main resource possessed by Samoans for development. Eighty – one (81%) percent of Samoan land is held under customary tenure and controlled by family titled heads known as matai. The thesis examines the Act and its impact on the operation of the court and the extent to which power unwittingly gravitates to Judges. Assessors and the Court officials as they create and re-create customs in the absence of a clear definition while they attempt to resolve family titles and customary land disputes. The thesis explains the shortcoming inherent in the Act and the way it is interpreted by court officials in the day to day implementation of the Act. It also looks at the tensions between the traditional authority and introduced democracy in relation to fundamental individual rights and freedom of religion. When ownership of family titles are disputed, the security of family members are threatened, land and related resources are often tied up pending court settlements. The thesis documents the operation and proceedings of the Court in arriving at settlements and explores the tension existing between the Act and the perspectives of the court officials in the way they interpret the Act. The thesis argues that the decision making of the Land and Titles Court is based on aganu’u ma agaifanua (custom and usage) but the determination of custom and usage is not defined in the Act. In the absemce of the definition, the role of Samoan court officials and judges assume considerable importance because their perception and interpretation defines and determines custom and usage affecting aiga (families), nu’u (villages), lotu (church), itumalo (districts) and Samoa as a whole. The definition and determination of custom and usage are fraught with difficulties and because they are made by court officials and judges sitting as matai. Consequently, their determinations are proned to be subjected to a wide range of interpretation and applications. These difficulties lie at the core of this examination and as such, I contend, speaks to the heart of Samoa’s development efforts
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