Samoa (officially the Independent State of Samoa), formerly known as Western Samoa, is an Oceanian country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962.
The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and Savai'i, one of the biggest islands in Polynesia. The capital city, Apia, and Faleolo International Airport are situated on the island of Upolu.
Samoa was admitted to the United Nations on 15 December 1976. The entire island group, which includes American Samoa, was called "Navigator Islands" by European explorers before the 20th century because of the Samoans' seafaring skills.
The Samoan head of state (O le Ao o le Malo), has since the country's independence enjoyed the title of Highness, as do the heads of the four paramount chiefly dynasties. The position is that of a ceremonial head of state, while actual power is held by the Prime Minister, whom the O le Ao o le Malo appoints on the recommendation of the Fono. While the O le Ao o le Malo "does not play an active role in government", he can dissolve the Fono and no act of parliament will become law without his approval.
The position is described in Part III of the 1960 Samoan constitution. At the time the constitution was adopted, it was anticipated that future heads of state would be chosen from among the four Tama a 'Aiga "royal" paramount chiefs. However, this is not required by the constitution, so, for this reason, Samoa can be considered a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy (such as the United Kingdom). The government Press Secretariat describes O le Ao o le Malo as a "ceremonial president". However, as all of the heads of state, elected by the Fono, the country's parliament (which is itself almost entirely composed of customary chiefs), since independence have been one of the four chiefs, so it is ambiguous as to whether the country constitutes a parliamentary republic or a democratic elective monarchy.