Outrage at Samoan cabinet minister's 'pusi' jibe

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Fiame Naomi Mata'afa.
Fiame Naomi Mata'afa.

A Samoan cabinet minister has come under fire for using the word "pusi" while referring to women during a vote in Parliament.

Associate Minister of Education Tuu'u Anasi'i Leota shocked members of the House late last week when he used the phrase: "E le o se pusi atoa, a o le afa pusi."

Translated, it means: "It is not a complete cat, but half a cat."

In Samoan, the word refers to cat and sea-eel, but is also a derogatory term used to describe women's genitalia.

Mr Tuu'u's comments were made during the passing of a bill that will give space to at least five women Members of Parliament at all times - a historic move for the island nation.

Minister of Justice Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, one of the country's most respected women leaders, blasted her fellow politician for his use of words.

The Samoan Observer reported that Ms Mata'afa said: "Honourable speaker, I don't accept this kind of language inside this House. It is not respectful language because it is being referenced to a woman. Not only that - it has a double meaning."

She asked that the words be removed from official Parliament records.

Mr Tuu'u however, did not see the issue; instead calling on Ms Mata'afa to explain.

"I don't know what's wrong with the words I used. There are much harsher words, but the language I used was very clear. I ask that she explain to me the pusi she knows ... the one I know is different."

Speaker La'auli Leuatea Polata'ivao then interrupted, saying: "We're not going to argue about the pusi in case." He then apologised to Ms Mata'afa - one of only two women MPs.

Samoan politicians in New Zealand slammed the use of the word, calling it derogatory and disrespectful.

NZ First's Leaufa'amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor said she was offended by the comments.

"This is a classic example of males being arrogant and disrespectful of women. He obviously has a lack of understanding of what equality is about and if I was his mother I would not be happy.

"He's either dumb and he's not a good communicator or he was being rude deliberately - which I think he was. I think it's really sad."

Mangere MP Su'a William Sio said he had already received dozens of emails about it from members of the community who were upset.

He said one person said the word was something teenagers might use - not a top cabinet minister.

He also referred to the traditional Samoan covenant or "feagaiga" between men and women, which is based on respect.

"It's an ancient covenant, but is still very relevant today. There is a sacred space between a man and a woman or brother and sister and Mr Tuu'u has disregarded that."

- NZ Herald

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