An Ethics of Responsibility in Samoan Customary Law
Keynote Address, Law, Ethics & Responsibility Symposium, Hopuhopu, Ngaaruawaahia, Waikato-Tainui College for Research and Development
His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi, November 2014
His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese was Head of State of Samoa from 2007 - 2017.
Tui Atua Tamasese attended the 2014 Symposium in new Zealand on Law, Governance and Responsibility at which he presented a Paper entitled An Ethics of Responsibility in Samoan Customary Law. Tui Atua Tamasese is a leading author on a Pacific Indigenous reference, bringing colonial influences into dialogue with Samoan traditions, in order to revitalize the attributes of governance, spirituality, environmental values, leadership in the context of village communities.
« When Betsan invited me a few months ago to participate in this symposium, she explained that it was about “responsibility within law and custom”, focusing particularly on the management and governance of water. In our discussions about the symposium’s focus she mentioned the notions “climate change”, “climate justice”, “public good”, “common good”, “western law” and “indigenous custom”. She suggested that the symposium would benefit from having perspectives on these from the wider Pacific fanauga, beyond Aotearoa New Zealand, and from cultural custodians such as myself.
I accepted Betsan’s invitation because I am committed to the indigenous cause. I consider it my duty as a cultural custodian to share with the young what I believe is the best of my Samoan indigenous culture and customs. To do this I have had to probe and make visible uncomfortable areas of discussion within contemporary Samoan society and culture. This has been no easy task and I worry constantly about how best to do it. Much of the discomfort has largely been because the Samoan indigenous reference has been unfairly relegated to the sidelines of Samoan society for it refers too much for many to what Samoans have described as a time of ‘darkness’; a time that many would prefer not to remember or have been colonised to believe is not worth remembering »
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