"This death is an epoch moment for Samoa as it has never before had to choose a successor Head of State. Two key decisions few living Samoans have ever had to deal with will now have to be made: who will be the next Head of State, and who will next be bestowed with the "tama-a-aiga" or princely title of Malietoa. Who will assume that title could take years, but the next Head of State is almost certain to be another paramount chief, Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi. In the 1970s he was prime minister and was known as Tupuola Efi.
Malietoa Tanumafili II was born on January 4, 1913, the son of the first Tanumafili. The title Malietoa is one of Samoa's most powerful and gave the holder title over much of Samoa. In the 19th Century, backed by European colonial powers, various Malietoa holders and other paramount chiefs would make war on each other.
Under New Zealand rule in Western Samoa, Malietoa Tanumafili I was a strong supporter of Wellington, putting him in opposition to the majority of Samoans who backed the Mau movement and independence.
Samoa had experienced tension and bloodshed over which paramount title became de facto king of Samoa and when independence arrived in 1962 there was high level worry over the possibility of this arising again.
In a remarkable compromise Samoa's constitutional conference decided that two rival paramount chiefs should be joint Head of State for the terms of their lives. Thus Malietoa Tanumafili II and Tupua Tamasese Meole became the joint Head at independence in 1962. They stood together with New Zealand Prime Minister Keith Holyoake and raised the flag of independence at Mulinu'u.
A year later Tupua Tamasese died leaving Malietoa alone. He defined the post by a gracious dignity and sincere warmth of character. He was a nationalist, immensely proud of Samoa, but he was also an intelligent leader well aware of the need to offer a guiding hand rather than an oppressive one.
The office of Head of State was required by the constitution to act on the advise of Parliament and the executive government, and while there were moments of tension over the years in Samoa, Malietoa always acted with great care and never betrayed any political bias.
But he was also the Malietoa and he had to lead the governance of his own aiga or extended family. His power was illustrated a decade ago in the village of Malie where he ordered the banishment of two matai or chiefs who had defied village council rules.
A letter from Malietoa revealed his power.
"I am astonished at the arrogance," he said of the chiefs who defied him.
"I am Malietoa, the father of our village. "My life is 84 years old and this is the first time inside of Malie that a position has arisen where ... a speech by a Malietoa has been belittled."
He informed the pulenu'u or mayor that the men must leave Malie, and return their chiefly titles.
He said they must also "remove their houses and... let there be no gravel or sand (of theirs) remaining on the soil of Malie."
Another chief had said no one in the history of Malie had ever disobeyed Malietoa.
"He owns the soil, the trees. But for the fact that this Malietoa is humble, the two men would not be alive today," he said.
As Head of State Malietoa was entitled to live at Vailima, the lovely sprawling estate in the hills above Apia that was created by Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson. He never lived in it, preferring his own rather more ordinary house in town, but he would use it for official functions. But when Vailima was given to a US Mormon trust for development, Malietoa steadfastly refused to return to it.
Malietoa remained remarkably healthy throughout his life. His romantic life was a matter of discretion and the number of children he fathered is not fully known. He also had a great passion for golf and until late in life would play a round or two a week.
Malietoa's death ends the last of a once powerful 20th Century Polynesian triumvirate. The three were all related: Samoa's Malietoa Tanumafili II, Tonga's King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV and Fiji's Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.
All three men were heads of state at times of independence and all held powerful chiefly titles recognised as royal across the Pacific.
Ratu Mara was the youngest of them but when he died in 2004, aged 84. He had taken Fiji to independence in 1970 and also served as president. He was also a paramount chief of the Lau Islanders - and by extension a prince of Fiji.
Tonga's King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV was a cousin of Ratu Mara and he ruled Tonga for 41 years, died last year aged 88."