II. FISHERY RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT IN SAMOA
C. Policies and institutional arrangements
Resource use and development decisions are addressed by the Samoan political network based on "The Samoan Way" (Fa'a Samoa). This traditional Polynesian decision-making system begins with the Matai System on the local level and is reflected in the structure of most political and social organisations (Peteru 1993).
Eighty five point seven percent of the population lives in 330 villages under the direct authority of 18,000 registered Samoan Chiefs (matai). The matai are the heads of the extended families (aiga) and are elected by consensus of the clan (hereditary titles play a role in selection). Matai are responsible for the clan's lands, resources, and labour and represent the clan in the village council. There is a village mayor (pulenu'u) appointed by the government who presides over the village council.
Village councils (fonos) decide on all matters pertaining to the village and its land and sea resources. Decisions are reached by consensusfollowing a great deal of discussion by concerned parties. The governing authority of the village matai was formally recognised by The Fono Act (1990).
Samoa has no army and less than 400 police; enforcement is left to the village councils. Village council fines imposed on lawbreakers are often worse than provided by national law and may involve fines, physical beatings, or in extreme cases, ostracism or banishment from the village. Fono decisions are based more on a sense of social justice than written laws and regulations.
The villages are conservative and resist outside interference in their affairs. Each village has a number of clans and there is a titular high chief (ali'i) and an orator or talking chief (tulafale). The orators are the real sources of authority in the village and conduct debates and speeches on all subjects. But in the end, everyone must agree on the decision or no decision is made (Peteru 1993).
The 1960 constitution creating the National Government was based on the British parliamentary system. The country became politically independent from New Zealand in 1962. It is a member of the British Commonwealth.
The National Governmentis, despite the western parliamentary institutions, basically the matai system taken one level higher. The parliament is a national fono and the members are elected from the village matai in the 11 districts. Until 1990, only registered matai could vote for Parliament. The1990 referendum approved universal suffrage but only matai can run for the 47 Samoan seats.
The head of state is chosen from one of four royal families, and - like the village High Chief - does not play an active role in government, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister and cabinet. The head of state is The Paramount Chief of Samoa, His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II. He officially appoints as Prime Minister the member of the legislative authority who has the majority of support of the 47 members. The Prime Minister then selects an 8-member cabinet from the parliament.
Perhaps the most important feature of the Polynesian decision-making is that people avoid conflict by consensus agreement among peers, even on trivial matters. Meetings tend to involve as many stakeholders as possible - within the particular peer group. For example, in the villages, the village council discusses all matters concerning village life, especially when there are conflicts in resource use. While the talking chief is permitted to direct the discussion and may strongly influence issues by his speaking skills, no decision will be made until everyone agrees - or more specifically, nobody objects.
Multi-use conflicts are resolved democratically and locally - except when the conflicts are between different villages. If inter-village negotiations fail, the consensus process moves to the next level in the hierarchy - the National Government. When a firm national policy or legislation already exists, the conflict is resolved by government regulations or by the courts. Usually, parliamentarians debate the issue until an agreement is reached.
Ministries are modelled after the Commonwealth system. There is a Minister, advisors to the Minister, an upper level management position (Director), several second tier management positions (Assistant Directors) of Divisions or Offices, and various levels of professional, technical and managerial staff depending on the size of the organisation. The Ministers sit on the Cabinet and make decisions on all development issues with due consideration to inputs from parliament and other sources.
The Fisheries Division is embedded in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Meteorology. The Fisheries Division has a small staff of technical support people and a limited budget. The FAO (which has a regional office in Apia) provides an advisory service to the Ministry with direct access to all levels of the decision-making process. They are, for example, presently assisting with the development of a Strategy for National Agricultural Development: Horizon 2010. Western Samoa. This plan includes recommendations for fisheries development. usAID">AusAID is assisting with the development of a fisheries extension and training project and the project director acts as advisor to the Chief Fisheries Officer and the Principal Fisheries Officer.
In 1992, a task force made up of representatives of upper middle management of most government departments, NGOs, experts from the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, and the private sector produced The Samoa National Environment and Development Strategies (Samoa 1993). The production of the report enabled the various stakeholders to discuss potential conflicts and resolve them in committee through the usual process of debate and consensus. The process was highly successful in bringing the concepts of sustainable development into focus for all levels of government. Cabinet approved the final publication as the official National Environment and Development Strategy.
The middle management policy-making committee still exists. With the 12 priority issues of the NEDMS as a foundation, the committee split into four policy subcommittees. Each formulated a policy statement on the four highest priority issues - population, land, water and waste management. These are now (February 1997) before the Minister of Lands, Surveys, and Environment. His comments will be incorporated into the Policy and any required changes made before the statements will be sent on to all the Ministers and then to Cabinet for approval.