SAMOA: An MP in Samoa’s parliament is calling for divorce to be out-lawed in Samoa. However, an amendment to the current divorce laws is on the table that includes provision to allow a form of “no fault”divorce. This has sparked a huge debate of whether the existing Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Ordinance comports with divine law. The debate splits the prime minister and other members of parliament into two camps. The prime minister is in favor of keeping the divorce laws and allowing even more freedoms; the MP wants the practice of divorce abolished, on a religious basis, as a matter of national law. He feels that only death of a spouse justifies a divorce. But is this realistic?
Pacific Island News Association:
What God has put together let no man separate, said Gagaemauga No.2 Levaopolo Talatonu. Mr Levaopolo made this call in Parliament in the debate of the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Amendment Bill 2010. The bill sets out amended grounds for divorce. However, only the death of one of the marriage partners is just cause for remarriage, Mr Levaopolo said. It is God’s law, he said. Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Unasa Mesi Galo, who tabled the bill, said divorce does go against God’s law.But it is a matter between you and your wife, he said.
The bill deals with what happens in this world, he said. “Do not want to be God,” Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said to Mr Levaopolo. The bill deals with situations where reconciliation between couples is not possible, said Mr Tuilaepa. It is what happens in this world, he said. Government makes laws for worldly matters and God makes His laws, he said.
What is the current law on divorce in Samoa?
DIVORCE7. Grounds for divorce–(1) Any married person who is domiciled in Western Samoa and at the time of the filing of the petition where the ground is one of those specified in paragraphs (i), (j), (k) and (l) of this section has been domiciled there for 2 years at least (hereinafter called “the petitioner”) may present a petition to the Court praying for a divorce from the other party to the marriage (hereinafter called “the respondent”) on any one or more of the following grounds:
(a) That the respondent has been guilty of adultery since the celebration of the marriage;
(b) That the respondent without just cause has wilfully deserted the petitioner and without just cause has left the petitioner continuously so deserted for 3 years or more;
(c) That the respondent has for 3 years or more been a habitual drunkard and has either habitually left his wife without sufficient means of support or habitually been guilty of cruelty toward her; or, being the petitioner’s wife has for a like period been a habitual drunkard and has habitually neglected her domestic duties and rendered herself unfit to discharge them;
(d) That since the celebration of the marriage the respondent has been convicted of attempting to murder the petitioner or any child (of any age) of the petitioner or respondent or has been convicted of wounding, doing actual bodily harm to or, discharging any firearm at the petitioner or any such child with intent to maim, disfigure, disable or do any grievous bodily harm to the petitioner or such child;
(e) That the respondent has, since the celebration of the marriage, been convicted of murder;
(f) That the respondent is a person of unsound mind and [unlikely] to recover, and there has been an order of medical custody against him pursuant to [the Mental Health Ordinance 1961], or he has been confined in a mental health institution in any other country for a period or periods not less in the aggregate than 5 years within the period of 8 years immediately preceding the filing of the petition;
(g) That the respondent is a person of unsound mind and is unlikely to recover, and has been continuously a person of unsound mind for a period of 5 years immediately preceding the filing of the petition and during the final 3 years of the said period of 5 years has been the subject of an order of medical custody pursuant to the Mental Health Ordinance 1961, or has been confined in a mental health institution in any other country for the said period of 3 years;
(h) That the petitioner and respondent are parties to an agreement for separation, whether made by deed or other writing, or verbally, and that such agreement is in full force and has been in full force for not less than 3 years;
(i) That the petitioner and the respondent are parties to a decree of judicial separation or a separation order made in Western Samoa or any decree, order, or judgment made in any country if such decree, order or judgment has in that country the effect that the parties are not bound to live together, and further that such decree of judicial separation, separation order or other decree, order or judgment is in full force and has been in full force for not less than 3 years;
(j) That the petitioner and the respondent are living apart and are unlikely to be reconciled and have been living apart for not less than 5 years;
(k) That the respondent, being the husband of the petitioner, has been guilty of rape or of sodomy or of bestiality since the celebration of the marriage;
(l) That the respondent has been convicted of any crime and has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of at least 7 years.
(2) For the purpose of this Ordinance, any rule of common law notwithstanding, any person male or female shall be deemed to be domiciled in Western Samoa if he or she has been residing in Western Samoa for a period of at least 2 years and intends to remain in Western Samoa for the rest of his or her life unless some circumstance should occur to alter that intention.
There is no publicized indication of how the people of Fiji Samoa feel about this. They have not been polled to see what their preferences are on this issue. Chances are they are in favor of allowing no fault divorce. Most people in the South Pacific and around the world would arguably prefer that model.