Samoan cricket can be a murderous game

IT IS only 25 miles from Apia, the capital of Western Samoa, but it might as well be 125, given its isolation: the sea on one side, and cut off from the rest of the island by a range of extinct volcanoes on the other. Until last September, Fagaloa, a district of five small villages, was no more remembered than any other dot on the vast South Pacific - but in three weeks, the six Samoan chiefs who run its district council will go on trial for incitement to murder.

The case, which has already seen one man sentenced to death for murder, another given life for arson, 20 villagers jailed and the district's inhabitants collectively 'fined', has highlighted a rift between traditional society and modern government that many Samoans thought had faded away.

The violent death of Faitala Nuutai Mafulu, who had returned home after 20 years making his fortune in New Zealand, spread echoes across Polynesia. It was a case of a 42- year-old man rich enough to turn his back on tradition, and being killed for it.

The crime showed how uncomfortable the relationship is between imported Western- style laws, based on individualism, and the communal ways of the South Pacific.

But it was a cricket match that sealed Mafulu's fate.

It all began four years ago when Western Samoa was devastated by a cyclone. Mafulu, who had worked in a paint shop in Auckland and run a taxi on the side, came home to set up business among the devastated settlements. From the beginning there was an element of mistrust. A family elder had been banished from the village, leaving Mafulu and his relatives excluded from the Fagaloa's day-to-day affairs, and answerable only to themselves.

Using his funds from New Zealand, he set up a general store in direct competition to existing smaller ones. He bought an electricity generator to power a refrigerator, which gave him the edge on his competitors by allowing him to stock a much larger range of goods.

His business grew rapidly. Then he bought a bus, which he operated between Fagaloa and Apia - and he became richer still. The villagers, envious of his success, said he became arrogant and ignored rulings by the chieftain-controlled village and district councils.

Then came the cricket match. Western Samoans may be better known for their rugby prowess, but kilikiti is the islands' national sport.

Adapted from the English game soon after Protestant missionaries landed last century, it involves some 20 players on each side - including drummers - using a three-sided war club as a bat. The ball is made from hard rubber sap and the stumps are saplings.

Whole villages take part, dancing and singing for their side as the opposing team and its supporters stage hakas and ridicule each batsman.

It is a great social occasion; a pretty ritual that has replaced warfare. None the less, the 'bat' has been used to settle arguments between teams: 10 years ago an umpire and a player were killed.

Malfulu's fault was that he chose to play for a rival village in the national championship, and ignored his own village's request to use his bus to take its team to the venue 25 miles away. Worse still, the other village won a humiliating victory - and the district council ordered a boycott of Malfulu's bus and store.

Several days later, he chased off his land a young man who had come to ring the 'curfew bell', a traditional practice signifying the end of the day and time for prayers.

Outraged at this show of 'disrespect', the Fagaloa district council ordered that Malfulu's property be destroyed - but he was not told of this decision, nor was any attempt made to mediate. His store, his bus and a pick-up truck were set on fire by a mob, which also stoned his house.

When Malfulu came out, knelt in front of his dwelling and begged for mercy, a shot rang out from behind the mob, hitting him in the chest. Badly wounded, he dragged himself back inside as the hail of stones began again.

The villagers yelled for him to come out. Followed by his wife, a son and daughter, he re- emerged and was shot in the head at close range, dying instantly. His body was dumped in front of the Fagalao district council meeting house. The council has admitted that its members incited the arson, but has denied that any of the chiefs ordered that Malfulu be punished by death.

They offered the police two scapegoats - the gunman, Afoa Sasela, and the villager who had led the mob - and a levy was imposed on each member of the district and paid as compensation to the victim's family.

But this was not enough in the eyes of the law.

The role of the chiefs in the affair is not questioned. Samoans believe that they had every right to impose their will on the community. It is the taking of a man's life in such an arbitrary fashion that has caused dismay: only the state has the authority to do that.

And here lies the confusion. In Polynesia's dual system of law, the dividing line between tradition in the villages and the imported conventions of the West are thin indeed.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

DT Design and Technology Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on