Samoa: constitutional governance and customary law

Breda, Vito (2019) Samoa: constitutional governance and customary law. Comparative Law Journal of the Pacific , 23. pp. 163-180. ISSN 1772-1644


This article discusses the Samoan constitutional system and its distinctive ‘mix’ of traditional and modern democracy. On the one hand, the Constitution endorses a series of universal values and the division of power. On the other hand, the chief of the family, called the Matai, is chosen by consensus and s/he still has a distinctive public role within the local council and the parliament. The cooperation and antagonism between modernity and tradition has, over the years, generated a dynamic balance which is perceived by some as hindering the administrative efficiency of the Independent State of Samoa. A process of the constitutional recognition of a national identity might increase the level of complexity of the system of governance but that should not be automatically associated with hindering effects. The article is divided into two main parts. The first part discusses two key aspects of the traditional system of governance called the fa’asamoa and the fa’amatai. The second part evaluates the critiques levelled against the constitutional recognition of traditional identities.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to Published version.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Law and Justice
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2019 05:20
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2019 04:29
Uncontrolled Keywords: Samoa, constitutional law, constitutional recognition, fa’amatai, social development, consociative democracy
Fields of Research : 14 Economics > 1402 Applied Economics > 140213 Public Economics-Public Choice
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180111 Environmental and Natural Resources Law
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1802 Maori Law > 180203 Te Tiritio Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi)
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180116 International Law (excl. International Trade Law)
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180103 Administrative Law
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180108 Constitutional Law
21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Law
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180106 Comparative Law
Socio-Economic Objective: D Environment > 96 Environment > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960605 Institutional Arrangements for Environmental Protection
B Economic Development > 91 Economic Framework > 9104 Management and Productivity > 910405 Public Sector Productivity
C Society > 94 Law, Politics and Community Services > 9404 Justice and the Law > 940401 Civil Justice

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