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Proposed bill seeks to amend law on closing registration for matai titles

Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean
Amendments include allowing more than one person to register the same title

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean is sponsoring legislation, which seeks to amend current law on the Closing of Registration for Matai titles, calling for a three-month temporary moratorium to allow families to register valid matai titles and to allow for more than one person to register the same matai title.

Introduced in the Senate on Monday this week, the bill’s preamble notes that it has been 50 years since the Closing of Registration for Matai title law was enacted — back in 1969. The initial law was instituted in order to regulate the issuance of matai titles and to preserve the reverence of the matai authority in families.

The statute, however, has also prevented the abilities of families to legitimize valid family titles, the proposed bill says, noting that passage of the bill is vital to families to register valid matai titles with the Territorial Registrar’s Office while still safeguarding the initial statute by providing a limited timeframe and added regulations.

Current law states that the registration of matai titles is closed as of January 1, 1969 and any matai title not registered by that date may not be registered. The bill provides an exemption for a “temporary moratorium... for three months starting with the month that this law goes into effect.”

After the three-month moratorium, the registration shall be closed again.

Current law also states that registering more than one matai title is prohibited. But the bill amends the law,  allowing more than one person to be registered to the same title if:

•     families provide an affidavit from the family sa’o allowing for the registration of the same title by more than one person. If the family sa’o is not available, a majority of the family senior matais must provide the affidavit; and

•     The Territorial Registrar’s Office shall allow the registration, subject to the temporary three-month moratorium referenced above.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate committee for review and a decision.